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20 Jul 2019, Edition - 1467, Saturday

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India News

Do we really need elephant abuse to entertain us? The historic Amer fort is plagued with animal abuse, yet we choose to turn a blind eye

Indrani Thakurata

16th of April was World Elephant Day, and we saw hordes of people, from animal activists and socially conscientious people voice themselves against cruelty towards elephants. But what typically happens with such articles and tweets is, that they are written to commemorate a day and very easily forgotten as the day rounds up for another. Just the other day, my little one was jumping with excitement after seeing an elephant perform a small ritual in a temple down south. And mind you, even though wild animals are banned from performing,elephants are still at it. The reasoning behind is that, elephants are tamed to perform menial tasks, whether in circus or in temples. Keeping aside the reasoning, the big question is do we really need elephant abuse to entertain us? One needs to really think about the abuse and cruelty that these magnificent beings go through when captured and brutally trained to meet the needs of humans. The natural habitat of elephants is cool and shaded with a forest full of nutritious food and conductive substrates to walk on. However, in captivity, none of this is possible and they live fairly solitary lives.

“The elephant abuse is tremendous, it is physical and emotional. All of these elephants have had their spirits broken and denied to express basic natural behaviors such as foraging for food or socializing with other elephants while they are working there. They are beaten up regularly to make them obey and the use of ankush is still prevalent at Amer despite it being banned. They have no respite from being overworked and are not at all fed proper food or given water either. Elephants never evolved to be ridden or carry huge amounts of weight on their backs, nor are their feet developed to walk on hot man made surfaces like tar roads,” says Anjari Jha, Manager, Wildlife and Sustainable food Initiative at Humane Society International. She adds, “ Take for example the Amer fort, a beautiful building of historic significance, plagued with animal abuse. Elephant are often captured as babies and have to undergo a ruthless training process called ’the crush’, whereby these beautiful creatures are beaten, poked and starved into submission by their handlers. Ofcourse, this is just the beginning of the pain that these elephants are put through. Elephants at Amer fort (some images attached) have been witnessed to have multiple health problems including foot injuries, damaged eyes and fatigue caused by their unnatural activity. Each ride costs around Rs.1000/- and it takes 20-30 minutes for the elephants to trudge up the stoney hillside. The point to remember is that these are not the hope elephants are supposed to live with. They would not go to such places if left on their own and one can clearly witness the mahouts probing these animals and pushing them.”

The magnitude of elephant abuse and what needs to be done to curtail it; both from the side of the individuals and the government; including some of the current lags is what we as animal lovers need to look at.”To curtail it, we need to understand the implications of it. This is a business like any other, If the demand goes, the supply will vanish too. We need to spread awareness about the issue and how we are supporting it even if we are not actually riding these elephants just by staying silent. Even though these animals will live in captivity all their lives we have to make sure this doesn’t happen to any other wild elephant. Most of these elephants are wild caught and they are stolen at a young age of between two to five years,” says Anjari. He lags are clearly visible to most elephant lovers. “Like all issues in this country, this one is also a victim of ignorance for the most part. There are laws in place, it is absolutely illegal to take elephants from the wild or abuse captive elephants in any way. The issue is people commodifying an animal to such an extent where they are only seeing their pleasure and fun and not the palpable agony the animal is in. Awareness is a tool that needs to be extensively used for these elephants and the fact that we as a country don’t want to be known for abusing elephants but for protecting elephants to have the highest number of wild Asiatic elephants because of great conservation efforts,” she concludes.

It is about time we start we become concerned about the plight of these animals, before India become synonymous with cruelty to its wildlife and inconsideration; like China and the Yulin dog meat festival!

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