DEHRADUN: In a unique move, Rajaji Tiger Reserve has set up a gym for elephants in Chilla range of the forest to keep the distressed captive pachyderms used for patrolling and monitoring in the reserve.
Amit Varma, director, RTR said, "The gym will provide options of exercise and playfulness which will.keep them more fit and cheerful. The elephants in wild move a lot and get rigorous physical expose than those in captivity."
The gym has been set up to ensure that the six captive elephants, who don’t move much compared to their wild contemporaries get exercise, remain healthy and cheerful.
Dr. Aditi Sharma, a veterinarian at the reserve said, "Physical movement for elephants is important for their physical and mental health. In this gym, they are made to do various exercises which keep them physically and mentally engaged."
At present, a total of six elephants -three adults and three calves - are being trained in this gym.
Activities in the open-air facility include mud baths, big pipes with holes in which food is kept for them to search, tyres hanging from ropes, big hanging balls for adult pachyderms, and small balls for the calves.
Ritesh Joshi, a scientist at conservation and survey division of Union ministry of environment and forests and author of ‘Secret Life of Elephants’ said, "Elephants, in captivity get stressed easily as they have a habit of living in herds. Such exercises will help them keep engaged without any stress."
Uttarakhand has registered over a 10% increase in the number of elephants, according to figures released by the state government.
The census was conducted for three days - from June 6-8, 2020 - which recorded 2026 elephants.
According to Uttarakhand forest department data, a total of 21 elephants died in the state in 2019. However, no elephant died due to poaching (or poisoning) in 2019.
Uttarakhand recorded a total of 38 elephant deaths each in 2018 and 2017. The death counts in the state in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 stood at 7, 27, 29, 19, and 29 respectively.
Since the formation of the state in 2000, 420 elephants have lost their lives.
Among these, maximum 161 died of natural causes followed by 70 due to infighting, 68 in accidents, 55 of unknown causes, 39 succumbed to electrocution, 16 were crushed to death by train, nine lost their lives due to poaching, one died of poisoning, and another one was killed after being declared a problem animal.