BENGALURU: On this World Elephant Day (August 12) wildlife conservationists hope to raise awareness on the pitiable condition of both Asiatic and African elephants. As per conservative estimates, 35,000 wild elephants are slaughtered annually across the world .
These huge mammals are mostly killed for their ivory tusks and also poached for their meat, skin and body parts. China is leading the pack by indulging in illegal trading of both the Asiatic and African species.
On the other hand, there are more than 3,000 captive elephants used for religious and tourism purposes in Rajasthan, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Odisha and other states.
These mammals are forced to beg, perform stressful ceremonial and temple duties and carry people on their backs for entertainment in Thailand, India and other countries.
Campaign against elephant rides
Pledging support for the day, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PeTA), India, in its countrywide campaign has requested everyone to shun joy rides on these majestic gentle mammals. “What seems enjoyable to us is a lifetime of suffering for them. The so-called joyrides are miserable and painful for these social and intelligent animals. They look beautiful in nature, not in captivity. Let’s empower their future,” it said.
A PeTA-commissioned investigation of elephant training in Nepal and an Animal Welfare Board of India-authorised inspection of elephants used for rides in Jaipur revealed that these animals endure constant physical and emotional abuse. Calling upon the Rajasthan government to stop the use of elephants for any purpose, PeTA asked them to set up an elephant sanctuary with a no-breeding policy under the chain-free protected-contact system of management for rescued elephants.
They have requested the Central Zoo Authority to also look into the legality of Hathigaon where the elephants are housed, and urged all tourists to stop patronising elephant rides and other uses of captive elephants.
The painful training
With loss of habitat and disappearance of elephant corridors, captivity is a serious threat to elephants. The Asiatic species are often captured in the wild and relocated into the lucrative tourism sector.
According to PeTA officials, when elephants are just two years old, they are torn away from the tender care of their mothers and are either tied up between trees with heavy chains and ropes, which cause painful wounds, or confined to a tiny wooden enclosure called a ‘kraal’. In a training process that often lasts for months, trainers beat the young elephants with sticks and jab them with sharp, hooked ankuses (an elephant goad) until they lose all hope and begin to obey commands.
Further, metal objects are also used to pierce their sensitive ears, yank them, and force them to walk a certain way. Throughout their lives, the animals are thrashed and seriously injured by handlers, who often force them to give rides with untreated open wounds.
World Elephant Day, organised with the participation of more than 65 wildlife organisations, is also an attempt to share knowledge and emerge with positive solutions for the better care and management of both captive and wild elephants.