JAIPUR: Elephants offering joy rides to tourists at the iconic Amber Fort here have been found to be suffering from blindness and tuberculosis and are often forced to carry loads heavier than 200 kg, an examination of over 100 elephants at the spot has found.
As per the examination conducted by the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) during December 2017 to March 2018 at Hathi Gaon, 19 captive elephants of the 102 elephants were observed to be blind, either unilaterally or bilaterally, rendering them unfit for any work.
10 elephants were found suffering from tuberculosis and 28 were found to be above 50 years of age.
"Elephants were found to be under severe psychological distress. The tusks of 47 elephants appeared to have been cut. The elephants were seen carrying loads heavier than 200 kg," the report said.
Elephant rides are a major tourist attraction at Amber Fort. There were 132 privately owned captive elephants in Rajasthan in January 2015, 110 in 2016 and 102 in 2017, it said.
As per the report, out of the 102 elephants, matters related to legal compliance of keeping and using 53 elephants are pending before the magistrate court in Jaipur and hence the matter is subjudice.
"48 elephants seem to have been issued illegitimate ownership certificates by the Rajasthan Forest Department (RFD) as they mention 'source of purchase' and 'present market value' of the elephant. Both these citations indicate commercial value of an elephant, which is prohibited under the law," the report said.
Based on the compilation of observations and its interpretations as per important legal provisions, guidelines of Ministry of Environment and Forest and parameters set by AWBI in its application form, the report said none of the 102 elephants qualifies all the criteria set for registration with the AWBI under PARR, 2001.
"No elephant can be registered for offering rides at Amer Fort due to load restrictions mandated by the MoEF guidelines and other provisions of the law," it said.
The report also recommended an inquiry into the current practice of cutting tusks without taking necessary permission from the forest department and into why there are two elephant calves in private custody in Jaipur, in rampant violation of wildlife protection laws.
Additionally, the accurate number of captive elephant population in Rajasthan also needs to be ascertained, it said.
Animal rights activists have demanded a complete ban on atrocities on animals.
"Shocking report of blind and TB-infected elephants has come to fore after examination. The elephants are forced to carry backbreaking loads day in and day out. The rides must stop," PETA India Lead Public Policy Officer Nikunj Sharma said He said PETA India is asking authorities to intervene and protect these suffering elephants.