‘Retirement’ sanctuary opened for working Indian elephants
INTERNATIONAL animal welfare organisation Four Paws has started the construction of one of the largest elephant sanctuaries in Southeast Asia for former working elephants in Myanmar.
Former logging elephants, as well as orphaned or injured animals, will be rehabilitated at the new facility, to be called Elephants Lake.
Four Paws said export bans and logging restrictions in Myanmar had rendered “jobless” about 1 000 elephants that had been working in the teak industry.
For decades, the abused animals have been wandering with lumberjacks through Myanmar’s forests to assist with felling and carrying heavy tree trunks.
To prevent the now unemployed animals from being killed or having to endure being tourist attractions, Four Paws has started the construction of the sanctuary.
In the 17 000-hectare facility in the Bago Region, vets and experts will rehabilitate the elephants and prepare them for a life of freedom.
Construction began at the start of this month, and the first animals are expected to move into the elephant sanctuary by the end of this year.
Four Paws vet and head of the pilot project, Dr Amir Khalil, said: “For their owners, the elephants are now useless and, on top of that, a financial burden. The animals are therefore either killed or sold to the tourism industry.
“Unfortunately, elephant riding is still a fun holiday activity for a lot of people. These magnificent, endangered animals do not deserve death, or an equally cruel career change.”
At the sanctuary, the animals could recover from the exertions of their past and, ideally, be reintroduced to the wild, Khalil said.
The population of Asian elephants, the second largest land animal in the world, has more than halved in recent decades, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).
There are only 2 000 wild elephants left in Myanmar.
Four Paws said the sanctuary aimed to bring together new prides, and subsequently release the animals into the adjacent North Zar Ma Yi Forest Reserve.
If this is not possible, the elephants would be able to stay in the sanctuary for the rest of their lives.
Myanmar’s Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry provided the land, while state-owned forestry organisation Myanmar Timber Enterprise will place the elephants.