A new report released on the instance of World Elephant Day, today, highlighted that approximately over 200 elephants in India are kept in “severely inadequate conditions”. The third edition of the report ‘Elephants. Not commodities’ seeks a comparative research spanning a decade into elephant tourism, throwing light in venues across Thailand, India, Laos, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Malaysia.
As per the report, India is home to the second highest number of elephants deployed in tourism in Asia; and of the 21 venues accommodating 509 elephants, the report also established the fact that 45 per cent (225) of the elephants were kept in severely unacceptable and deficient conditions. It elucidated the lack of knowledge tourists possess when it comes to choosing elephant bathing over elephant riding: “unaware of cruelty involved”.
The report also uncovered that 2,390 (63 per cent) elephants are bearing the brunt of being kept in severely poor conditions at 208 venues across the countries studied, and of those just 279 (seven per cent) elephants are kept in properly sheltered places.
“The findings of this report are truly shocking. In India, elephants are revered and are considered a heritage animal. And yet we are witnessing that there are 21 venues housing over 500 elephants for the entertainment of people. This is completely unacceptable. Elephants are wild animals and they belong in the wild. I urge the Indian government to effectively enforce existing wildlife protection laws to stop trade of wild animals and wild animal products,” said Gajender K Sharma, country director, World Animal Protection India. The organisation has been toiling day and night to rule out elephant rides at the Amer Fort in Rajasthan’s Jaipur, where over 100 elephants are providing daily rides to thousands of tourists.
According to indianexpress.com, the report also brought to light that across Asia, there are over 3,800 captive elephants in 357 elephant tourism venues. Thailand is housing three quarters of the elephants and has seen a “shocking 70 per cent increase” in their number in just 10 years.
The report also goes on to add, whether taken from the wild or bred in captivity, ‘all elephants used for close tourist contact such as bathing have undergone a traumatic training method known as the crush’. ‘This involves separating young elephant calves from their mother, keeping them in isolation, depriving them of food and water, and in many cases beating them repeatedly until they are broken and can be controlled by fear.”
“Tourists need to know the truth – any elephant that you can get close enough to touch, is an elephant that’s been subjected to horrific abuse for this use. It’s not just riding and circus-style shows that involve suffering – it’s the bathing and selfie opportunities that you might find at so-called ‘sanctuaries’, ‘orphanages’ or ‘rescue centers’. This isn’t innocent fun. This is cruelty,” said Audrey Mealia, global head of wildlife at World Animal Protection.
The organisation further promulgated that everyone, from holiday makers, to tourist operators, should be accountable enough to put an end to the exploitation of wild animals forever – “less demand will mean less elephant suffering”.