The King's Keeper
A retired circus elephant, Gajraj (“King”), and a “mahout,” or elephant handler, Prahlad, find each other at the Elephant Conservation and Care Center in Mathura, India. In the circus, Prahlad recalls, handlers chained and beat elephants and jabbed them with sharp spears. At the Conservation Center, they care for the elephants. Both Gajraj and Prahlad bear scars from their past. Both are healing. “I like this work,” Prahlad says. “It’s what I want to do. And I’ll keep doing it. I am Gajraj’s Mahout. And he is my king.”
Northern White Rhinos (kifaru in Swahili) have been hunted to the edge of extinction by poachers who kill them for their horns, prized in traditional Chinese medicine. The last two females of the species, and the last male, named Sudan, survive thanks to protection from game wardens. While the wardens cannot ignore the futility of their mission, they recognize Sudan as a symbol that “there is a mistake in the world.” More poignant is the dignified relationship between the aged rhino and his caretakers, which looks very much like love. “We go through so much in the bush protecting and caring for these animals, only to lose them in the end,” one of the rangers observes. Meanwhile, outside the wildlife refuge, the rangers confront their own struggles to provide for their families. Could there be hope for kifaru — and humanity — in a miracle of modern science?