Ele­phants you ride may be blind and lame

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - TIMES NATION - @times­group.com

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

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