JAIPUR: The Covid-19 pandemic is taking a heavy toll not just on human beings but also the famous jumbos of Jaipur. One after the other, four elephants have died in Hathi Gaon (Elephant Village) since the first phase of lockdown began in March.
The Elephant Village shrouded in sadness after a female jumbo named Rani lost her life on Thursday night. Her mahout says that Rani had suddenly stopped eating anything a few days ago and was suffering from acute stomachache. She eventually died.
The veterinarian at the Elephant Village Neeraj Shukla says that Rani had developed a lot of swelling in her legs which caused her acute pain. He claimed that “every effort was made to save Rani. For some time there was improvement in her condition. But since the jumbos don’t give any ride these days, they are getting no exercise. Due to this their digestive system is suffering. Many jumbos now have stomach ailments and are not healthy anymore.”
A total of 4 Jumbos have died in the past 6 months. Prior to Rani’s death, jumbos numbering 24, 64, and 32 had already died. Most elephant owners say that the animals are losing their vitality because they remain largely static.
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Ballu Khan, the president of the Elephant Village Vikas Samiti says, “Earlier, we used to see elephant death once in 3-4 years. But now we have lost 4 Jumbos in 6 months. All these problems have started after they started remaining idle and static. Earlier each elephant used to give 3-4 rides a day at Amber Fort and that kept them fit. They are now becoming too heavy and unfit.”
The Pink City is home to over a hundred elephants who mostly live in the Hathi Gaon close to the historic Amber Fort. For centuries, elephants have been a part of Jaipur’s royal history. In recent decades, elephant rides at the historic Amber Fort have been a prime tourist attraction of the Pink City. Of the 100 elephants, 63 live in Hathi Gaon, and the rest with owners in areas around the fort.
Elephant owners say that with no earnings in the past six months, it is tough to feed an elephant. Even if they sometimes ate just one meal a day, they are fed adequately to ensure that the animals faced no problems due to the corona Crisis.
However, they point out, the state Forest Department, which gave a sum of Rs 600 per day for feeding the jumbos, has suddenly stopped giving them that support. Ballu Khan says: “That support money has been stopped without giving any reasons. But elephant owners are doing their best to feed the jumbos. After all, our lives run only from the money we make on these animals. If they do not remain healthy, how will we feed our families?”