Villagers Knit Giant Jumpers to Keep Elephants Warm

Doug Williams
Photo Credit: Roger Allen
Photo Credit: Roger Allen

Elephants are one of the world’s most beloved creatures; they are almost regal in their lumbering massiveness, and because they are mammals, they do many of the same things mankind does.

Elephants form societies; they nurse their young; they grieve when a member of their herd dies, and they “talk” with one another in a language all their own.

And of course, they are smart, and are famous throughout the world for their incredible memory.

Throughout the centuries, these magnificent animals have had an uneasy relationship with man, however; they’ve been captured and forced to perform in circuses, for example, and not always treated well by their captors, to put it mildly.

But when left to roam freely in their natural habitats in Africa and Asia, elephants live long and happy lives, caring for their young, “chatting” with one another over mud baths, and enduring pregnancies that can last almost two years.

And when one elephant in the family gets sick or hurt, the herd fusses and tends to it until it’s back on its humongous four feet.

Sometimes, because elephants are so dearly loved by so many, people volunteer their time and knowledge to helping them stay alive when they’ve been badly injured by mean-spirited men who want nothing more than their ivory tusks.

That’s the mandate of Wildlife SOS Elephant Conservation Centre in Mathura, India. The centre is dedicated to the well-being of elephants (and other animals) who have been hurt at the hands of men, or are too sick to travel with their “usual” herd.

Occasionally, however, there are issues for these animals even the centre’s staff can’t control or handle — like the weather.

In January, 2017, the winter temperatures fell below zero degrees, and so the women in a village close by decided to take matters into their own hands — literally.

They picked up their knitting needles and set to work. They made jumbo sized jumpers (or sweaters, as they’re also called) for all the elephants who were exposed to the cold, and spared them the very real risk of getting sicker than they already were.

This year, should the temperatures dip again to a degree the elephant can’t tolerate, their handlers at the centre will be ready with the outsized jumpers, and they’ll be warm and cozy straight away.

Kartick Satyanarayan is the founder of Wildlife SOS, which was established in 1995. Its home page online states that as soon as its efforts began, saving elephants and other wildlife in India, an “instant movement” was sparked.


Today, there are “sister” Wildlife SOS organizations in both the U.K. and America.

Satyanarayan told the Independent that the knitted jumpers were essential to keeping the elephants alive.

“It is important to keep our elephants protected from the bitter cold during (an) extreme winter,” she began, “as they are weak and vulnerable, having suffered so much abuse, making them susceptible to ailments such as pneumonia.”

Some of the elephants suffer another human illness as well — stiff and sore joints. “The cold also aggravates their arthritis,” Satyanarayan added, “which is a common issue that our rescued elephants have to deal with.”

But not this winter, perhaps, at least not as badly as these marvellous animals once endured, thanks to the centre, and the generosity and ingenuity of the village’s women.

Today, the elephants are warm and comfortable, and can just get on with the business of recovery, the goal of every volunteer at Wildlife SOS and its two staff members.

Today, at least, they are safe and can rest easy, knowing that when the temperature drops, the colourful sweaters will be pulled from storage and laid across their considerable girth. Such kindnesses are enough to warm the most cynical heart.

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fmssolution is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival