Elephants you ride may be blind and lame
Agra/Jaipur: One of five elephants which tourists ride around Jaipur is blind. All of them have injured or weak legs and most are probably suffering severe psychological problems, traumatised by abuse in captivity. The situation is not much better for the rest of India’s 3,500 captive elephants. Now the Supreme Court has sought a study to ascertain the magnitude of the problem.
On November 1, the apex court directed the Animal Welfare Board of India to conduct a survey across the country about the number of elephants held in captivity. The bench was hearing a petition which has sought implementation of the provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals Act, 1960 to protect elephants.
According to a recent study by World Animal Protection , most of India’s captive elephants are used to entertain tourists. The report, ‘ Taken for a Ride’, points at the 116 elephants used for tourism in Jaipur. The life expectancy of such captive elephants, which is between 70 and 75 years for the species, is down to less than 40 years. India has the largest population of elephants in the wild, an estimated 23,900- 32,000.
One of the most comprehensive studies on captive elephant welfare was conducted in India between 2005 and 2014 by NGO Asian Nature Conservation Foundation and Compassion Unlimited Plus Action. It looked at 1,545 elephants in temples, private hands, zoos and the forest department in 12 states.
Most of the elephants were found chained for between 9 and 18 hours a day. All the states reported serious health problems, in- cluding in the eye and foot, anaemia, urinary and respiratory disorders.
At Hathigaon near Amer Fort in Jaipur, elephants give rides twice a day to tourists in summer and four times every day in winter. The diet of each elephant costs Rs 3,500 a day. Their mahouts and government officials dismiss the report by WPA. “The NGO claimed 10 of the elephants had tuberculosis. Only two actually had TB and were cured. They are like family for us. These allegations are baseless and a conspiracy by the NGO,” said Balu Khan, a mahout.
“Medical checkups of these elephants is done twice a year. The situation is not what has been claimed. These animals are fit for people to go on rides,” added Arvind Mathur, veterinary officer at Jaipur zoo.
In a 2016 report, the Animal Welfare Board of India found that the situation was not much better among government-owned elephants. At Achanakmar Tiger Reserve in Chhattisgarh, surveyors found a male elephant that had been continuously chained for two months and was severely infected in the legs.
“There are two elephants at the reserve now, living in terrible conditions. There is no veterinarian for them. During training, such elephants are tortured severely. There is no difference between how government and privatelyowned elephants are treated,” said Chhattisgarh environmentalist Nitin Singhvi, who recently filed a petition against an order by the forest department to capture five wild elephants. (With inputs from Ajay
Singh in Jaipur)
All of the elephants held in captivity have injured or weak legs and most are probably suffering severe psychological problems