Ellie, a stunningly realistic life-size animatronic elephant, as part of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India’s child empathy unique initiative will appear in schools across India to tell children the story of real elephants who are separated from their mothers as babies and describe the physical punishments they endure in the circus. Actor Dia Mirza is giving voice to Ellie, who while blinking her eyes and flapping her ears looks just like a real elephant.
Ellie will appear in schools across India to tell children the story of real elephants who are separated from their mothers as babies and describe the physical punishments they endure in the circus. Ellie’s “personal” story has a feel-good ending, as she is rescued and lives happily ever after at a sanctuary. Ellie’s “personal” story has a feel-good ending, as she is rescued and lives happily ever after at a sanctuary.
Children at Mumbai’s Jamnabai Narsee International School received a special visit from actor Dia Mirza on May 6, who speaks through Ellie. “Elephants are deeply intelligent, social, and emotional beings who belong in nature, not in confinement, where they are chained and beaten,” says Mirza, who is known for her work as UN Secretary-General Advocate for the Sustainable Development Goals and UN Environment Program Goodwill Ambassador. “I am delighted to be working with PETA India and giving a voice to Ellie to teach youngsters that kindness to elephants means letting them live free.”
She adds, “As a mother, it’s an extremely conscious choice for me to support and work with education initiatives that create such a beautiful and nuanced sense of connection with nature among children. Through Ellie, I hope we can further build the precious bond our young ones already have with the planet as earthlings.”
Dia, who is also an ambassador for the Wildlife Trust of India, a board member of the Sanctuary Nature Foundation, and a global ambassador for IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare), finds a seamless resonance with Ellie and the cause of safeguarding our elephants.
Captive elephants used for circuses, rides, weddings, ceremonies, and other forms of entertainment are beaten into submission and chained when not in use. They often attack humans out of the frustration at their confinement. They are rarely given adequate food, water, or veterinary care, and the years spent chained and standing in one position on hard concrete surfaces commonly leads to painful and crippling foot ailments and bone and joint diseases like arthritis.
PETA India also runs a free humane education programme, Compassionate Citizen, designed to help school students aged 8 to 12 years better understand and appreciate animals. It has been used by over 2 lakh schools, reaching approximately 90 million children across India.