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LOCKDOWN IN CHAINS: 1,821 ‘privately owned’ elephants starving to death in India amid Pandemic

There are 2,675 captive elephants in India. Of these, 1,821 are privately 'owned' by individuals and other institutions, like temples and circuses.

SUPRIYA VOHRA: In early April this year, a video was being circulated amongst animal rights activists in Karnataka: A mahout stating that since the lockdown, his 55-year-old captive elephant has not had anything to eat. The elephant belonged to a temple in Mudhol district, and for the past 40 years, had been living off offerings of jaggery, sugarcane, fruits and grains provided by the people visiting the temple. Since the lockdown, the mahout had not been able to step out and the temple was running out of fodder. The video ends with the mahout appealing for help. Ever since the lockdown, there have been several such stories that have been doing the rounds on social media, seeking donations to provide food for starving captive elephants…

Conservationists and activists say that an average middle-aged healthy elephant needs 100-150 kg of food per day, consisting of grass, foliage, hay, banana stock, ragi, rice, gingelly oil, vegetables, pulses and fruits, along with 5,000 gallons of water. Captive elephants are heavily dependent on human intervention for their well-being, especially their mahouts, who play an active role in their positive reinforcement. The ones that are medically unfit require regular veterinary assistance. On average, the bare minimum cost for providing nutrition, medical needs and logistic support for one captive elephant amounts to approximately Rs one lakh per month…

There are 2,675 captive elephants in India, according to the information received by Tamil Nadu-based animal welfare activist Antony Clement Rubin via a Right to Information response from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in November 2019… Of these, 1,821 are in private custody and the rest are under the care of the forest department of various states. Among the elephants in private custody, some are owned by individuals and others by institutions like temples and circuses…

Currently, there are 1,251 captive elephants with ownership certificates and 723 elephants whose ownership certificates are still under process. “These captive elephants are brought as baby calves from the Northeast to Rajasthan and trained for tourist rides,” said Abhishek Singh, an animal welfare activist based in Jaipur. “A [memorandum of understanding] was passed between the Forest Department and some of the non-profits in the area, about four to five years back that no more new elephants will be brought to the state,” he said. “But the rules continue to be flouted”…

In 2017, members of the Animal Welfare Board of India attempted to conduct health checks on the elephants in Jaipur. Out of the 102 elephants tested, at least ten showed symptoms of tuberculosis, a zoonotic disease. The report also revealed that elephants were suffering from blindness, had their tusks removed, and were under extreme psychological stress. However, no action was taken at the time… “The elephants are constantly abused, they are made to stay in concrete stalls, they have foot diseases, ankush [a sharp instrument used by mahouts] is used to control them, and they are constantly under stress,” said Singh. SOURCE…

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