She was sixteen when started a petition on Change.org to free an African elephant living in the Delhi zoo. Meet student and activist Nikita Dhawan, who has become the voice of a lonely African elephant in Delhi’s zoo.
According to the petition, the elephant – Shankar – has been living in isolation for over 16 years and is in distress. He is chained for 17 hours of the day and doesn’t have enough space to move around when he is let out. The petition demanded that Shankar be removed from the zoo and rehabilitated in a wildlife sanctuary.
This journey started during the COVID-19 lockdown. Being isolated and confined allowed Dhawan to reflect on what captive animals feel for all their life.
“Just seeing the condition of Shankar himself was alarming enough and I was absolutely heartbroken. He was moving back and forth which is a sign of stereotypical movement in neurological distress for captive animals. And for the people, it seemed he was dancing and they were clapping but it was actually the opposite,” says the teen activist.
Founder of the initiative ‘Youth For Animals’ and brand ambassador for ‘Born-Free’, Dhawan says, “I have been interested in animals for a majority of my life.”
In December 2021, Dhawan and team filed a petition in the Delhi High Court for Shankar’s release and have been advocating for him to be in a sanctuary preferably overseas in Africa in his natural habitat. “We do have an overseas sanctuary, a UK-based charity who is willing to help and accept Shankar into one of their African sanctuaries. And, they are willing to help with the translocation and fund it. I think that this proposed solution will be a really good option for Shankar, if possible in his physical condition,” she adds.
Lastly, Nikita reflected that compassion is the key. Just because animals don’t have a voice doesn’t make it justified for us to exploit them or use them for our entertainment or for our education through zoos and circuses.