Posts Tagged With: Inida

Raja: Hostage to the Palm Oil Industry

baby raja

Straining against his chains, bellowing helplessly for his mother, baby Raja is held captive. He is alone, scared and hungry. The villagers in this Sumatran village are holding him for ransom. His crime: he and his family were searching for food in a deforested area, trespassing on the crops.


In what is becoming an all too familiar scenario, demands are soaring for palm oil, more forests are being decimated for palm plantations, and the animals’ food and homes are destroyed leaving them displaced and desperate.

Raja’s family, along with other homeless elephants were foraging for food, trying to survive. He was captured and brought into the village, held for weeks in an attempt to bargain with the government for compensation for their lost crops.

One man went so far as to jump on the baby’s back in an attempt to”ride” him, saying the elephant should be trained to do tricks to “earn” his money back.

Various groups tried to get veterinary care to the baby, and fought for his release but sadly Raja died. The stress and inadequate diet were too much for the little elephant.

In the end, it’s not just a matter of saving the elephants (and the Tigers, Rhino and Orangutans in the forests of Asia), but also of saving the people. Deforestation has disastrous effects on the soil, the climate and ultimately the villages.


Palm oil is used in 50% of consumer products, but is NOT a necessary ingredient.  Your ice-cream, margarine, shampoo, lipstick,  and some breakfast cereals all contain palm oil. Please read labels and avoid palm products. For more information on palm oil or other names it goes by please go to : Say No to Palm Oil  or the previous post There’s Orangutan Blood in my Kitchen.

Categories: Rhino Spotlight | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

The Story of Ganda: one of the first Sumatran Rhinos on record

Early in the year 1515, Alphonso Alburquerque, the governor of what was then Portuguese India, arranged for a special gift – a live rhinoceros – to be given to King Manuel I of Portugal. Animal gifts to royalty were fairly common in those times, with many people of nobility keeping exotic personal menageries. Called Ganda, the female rhinoceros had been captured in what is now the state of Assam. She was put aboard the Nossa Senorada Ajuda along with her keeper, Ocem, and the ship set sail from the port of Goa in January. It ventured westward across the Indian Ocean, rounded Africa’s Cape of Good Hope and arrived in Lisbon 120 days later.

sumatran eating

It would be safe to say that Ganda was something of a sensation in her new home, her kind not having been seen in Europe since the days of the Roman Empire. She resided in the royal menagerie at Ribeira Palace, but the King ordered that she not be kept near the elephants, as the two species were believed to be mortal enemies. However, within a matter of only a few weeks, he decided to verify this supposed fact and arranged for a battle between the beasts.

The fight was held in a courtyard and attended by the royal family and their guests. The youngest elephant in the King’s menagerie was led into the arena from its stable, and the tapestries hiding the rhinoceros were drawn open. An observer by the name of Valentin Ferdinand wrote that the rhinoceros appeared furious and immediately charged her foe, so violently that she broke free of her chain. The young elephant, whose back was initially turned to Ganda, reacted to her charge by “uttering a tremendous cry”, turning tail and bolting to safety through a thick set of iron bars.

How this affected the King is not recorded by history. However, instead of keeping his new pet rhino, he decided to re-gift Ganda to Pope Leo X. She was put aboard a ship bound for the Holy City, but this time adorned with a gilded chain, a green velvet collar, and a garland of roses and carnations. The sea voyage began in December, the ship docked briefly in Marseilles in January, and then headed for Rome.

Unfortunately, a storm encountered in the Gulf of Genoa sunk the ship and drowned all who were aboard, including Ganda. But all was not lost. Her body washed ashore, was recovered, stuffed and ultimately delivered to the Pope.

Categories: Rhino Ramblings, Rhino Spotlight | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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