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Bruised, starved and sick: The sorry state of captive elephants in India

A captive elephant faces both physical and mental abuse. Their feet become septic, life-threatening sores develop on their backs and hips, and are constantly bobbling even when stationary.

SIBI ARASU: ‘While concerted efforts are made to protect India’s wild elephants, little is done to oversee the well-being of captive elephants who routinely die of tuberculosis, foot abscess, malnutrition, and countless other preventable illnesses… There is no government data on deaths of captive elephants. Suparna Ganguly of Compassion Unlimited Plus Action says that 73 captive elephants have died in Kerala since 2016; at least five died in Tamil Nadu this year…

“A captive elephant faces both physical and mental abuse,” says GR Govind, founder of Gaja Raksha, an organisation that works for the well-being of captive elephants. “Their feet become septic, life-threatening sores develop on their backs and hips when they are made to carry heavy loads frequently,” he says. An elephant is meant to walk at least 30 kms a day and hence they are constantly bobbling even when stationary. Many temples and institutions cannot afford to give the elephants a nutritious, wholesome diet. They are also highly intelligent, social animals and captive isolation takes a heavy toll on their mental health, resulting in stereotypy.

According to government data, there are about 3,500 elephants in captivity in India: in forest camps, private ownership, travel and tourism, zoos and temples. While the conditions in forest camps are in most cases good, it is in temples and in tourism that elephants suffer the most… Apart from Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and Prevention of Cruelty of Animals Act, 1960, many state guidelines exist for the welfare of captive elephants. The problem is with implementation … In November, the Supreme Court directed the Animal Welfare Board of India to conduct a survey across the country to ascertain the number of elephants in captivity and their conditions’. SOURCE…

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