A new report prepared by government and other veterinary inspectors authorised by the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), a statutory body operating under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, reveals shocking abuse of captive elephants forced to give rides to tourists at Amer Fort near Jaipur and in response, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India is calling on authorities to ban elephant rides in the area immediately. The report is currently under examination by the AWBI.
According to the report, among the 102 working elephants examined at Amer Fort, many were found to be more than 50 years old. Ten tested positive for tuberculosis (TB), which can be transmitted to humans, and 19 were observed to be visually impaired, rendering them unfit to give rides because of the danger posed to both themselves and the public.
All were found to be suffering from various foot problems, including overgrown toenails and bruised footpads, and many displayed stereotypical behaviour patterns, such as repetitive swaying and head-bobbing, indicating severe psychological distress. Additionally, the tusks of 47 elephants appeared to have been cut, in apparent violation of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, raising suspicion that the tusks may have entered the illegal wildlife trade.
And all of those examined were seen carrying loads heavier than 200 kilograms, which is the legal maximum for these animals on hilly terrain. The post-mortem reports for four elephants who died within a period of five months in 2017 indicate that most had been suffering from respiratory diseases possibly TB and a heavy internal parasitic load.
“Shocking reports of blind and TB-infected elephants forced to haul illegal, backbreaking loads day in and day out are exactly why these rides must stop,” says PETA India Lead Public Policy Officer Nikunj Sharma. “PETA India is calling on authorities to intervene and protect these suffering elephants.”
PETA India whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment or abuse in any other way” – notes that just last year, a captive elephant used in Kerala’s tourism industry was beaten so badly that the animal’s leg broke.
And in June 2017, a group of American tourists at Amer Fort contacted PETA India to report witnessing ride operators beating an elephant continuously for 10 minutes an incident that prompted Bollywood actor Sonakshi Sinha to write a letter on the group’s behalf calling on authorities to relocate the animal to a rehabilitation facility for urgent care.
More than 100 travel agencies including global operators such as TripAdvisor, The Travel Corporation, Intrepid Travel, smarTours, STA Travel, and TUI Group have committed to not offering activities that exploit elephants.>