BENGALURU: The People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), India, has joined hands with the Bannerghatta Biological Park (BPA) to create a fenced forested sanctuary that will allow elephants to roam about freely and live as nature intended.
The 49.5 hectare space is home to 16 captive elephants, including an abused temple elephant, Sunder, who was relocated last June from Kohlapur on an apex court order.
Designed by PETA consultant and elephant expert Carol Buckley, a solar electric fence and a state-of-theart emergency corral made of steel pipes are nearing completion.
PETA CEO Poorva Joshipura said, “With the freedom to engage in natural behaviour within a large, open space to call their own, Sunder and his new family have the opportunity to thrive. We hope the sanctuary will act as a model for elephant sanctuaries throughout Asia.”
Elephant expert Margaret Whittaker, who designed the elephant and mahout training facilities and safety measures, will also have a role to play. She will train local caregivers in the principles of protected contact, a method of ensuring safe interaction between human beings and elephants by keeping them separated by a sturdy barrier and using positive reinforcement techniques instead of the age-old routine of physical punishment to manage the elephants.
Elephants at Bannerghata are relatively free compared to their counterparts in the rest of the country.
They have a big enclosure and the elephants are quite nearer to nature as they are allowed to move about freely. Presently, of the 16 inmates, two are temple elephants, four-five are born here while the rest are rescued from elsewhere.
BBP Executive Director Range Gowda told Express that they had provided the necessary forested land and PETA had funded and created the new facility. He said, “It will have a solar-fenced Kraal. One or two animals will be housed in each of these rest homes. A new training method will be imparted to our staff by Whittaker to look after the animals. However, our mahouts, used to the old ways, are still resisting this new concept of positive reinforcement, especially when it comes to dealing with the male elephants without any chain or any kind of restraint. It will take some time to adjust to this method as this concept is new to India.”