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Stoke-on-Trent Elephant Charity Aims to Take Volunteers to India

A charity is looking to arrange regular trips to India, offering people the chance to volunteer for a week at an elephant sanctuary.

Debbie Haynes, from Stoke-on-Trent, has recently returned from taking a first group to the Wildlife SOS site in Uttar Pradesh.

She aims to start organising three trips to the sanctuary each year.

Ms Haynes also raises funds in the UK and said generating charity income had been challenging in recent years.

Wildlife SOS was set up 1995 to help elephants that are abused in India and now also works to protect bears, leopards, tigers and other animals.

Ms Haynes joined in 2019 after leaving her “corporate career” and seeking to do something she was passionate about.

After volunteering for the charity, she became its first UK manager and along with fundraising, she works to raise awareness of the plight of Asian elephants in India.

That includes visiting schools and giving presentations, but she said: “A lot of people are very, very unaware of how endangered they are and how badly abused they are.”

The Wildlife SOS site in India, which includes an “elephant hospital”, was built in 2018 and currently cares for around 40 elephants.

Ms Haynes said it was near-impossible to return elephants to the wild after their abuse in captivity, so most of them would remain at the site for the rest of their long lives.

There are now plans to expand the site, to cater for another 70 elephants and she wants to take the organised trips from the UK to visit it.

The first group of 10, who recently returned to the UK, spent two weeks there, working as volunteers at the sanctuary during the second week.

Grants dried up

Ms Haynes said she believed the experience left a strong impression on them all.

Fundraising has become an issue, because of the rising cost of living in the UK and grants have dried up for the same reason, she said.

It costs the charity up to US$100,000 just to do the paperwork to rescue one elephant and caring for them cost more on top of that.

But she remained hopeful of further support from people in the UK and said: “There aren’t many people who don’t love elephants.”

Source : bbc