Elephants are being abused for tourist rides at Amber Fort, India
In his first guest blog, Shubhobroto Ghosh, our Wildlife Projects Manager in India, writes about elephant abuse witnessed at Amber Fort, the popular tourist attraction in Rajasthan
Unfortunately, the scale of the elephants’ abuse and the hidden suffering behind these rides is lost on many.
They are next brought into these venues such as Amber Fort, to carry humans on their backs and become props in an entertainment display.
An Amber Fort elephant, with damaged feet from carrying tourists, kneels on a concrete floor
Studies have shown that the elephants at Amber Fort in Jaipur – numbering in excess of 100 – show multiple health problems. These include foot injuries, damaged eyes and general fatigue caused by their unnatural activity.
The elephants’ diet is often nutritionally inadequate, barely fueling them for the steep slope they are forced to climb. They are forced to walk over concrete surfaces which cause them pain and distress.
Bearing in mind this immense cruelty – that is often promoted by travel and tour operators – a petition has been filed to the Supreme Court of India to stop this suffering and improve elephant welfare.
The petition has been led by Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre (an NGO), in a bid to stop these elephant rides.
The elephant is India’s National Heritage Animal, but the way they are treated shows complete lack of concern for a wild animal that is extremely social, sentient and walks across a range of over 20 km in the wild every day.
We are working with travel companies to urge them to remove elephant rides and shows from their itineraries, and promote animal friendly tourism.
We are also looking into a sustainable solution for these elephants in Rajasthan, so that they can experience some dignity after a lifetime of abuse.
The elephant has a rich history in India, worshipped and revered in culture and then ironically killed for ivory and illegally traded as objects of entertainment.
World Animal Protection strongly urges people to treat this majestic animal with respect so that as a wild animal, the elephant stays in the wild and does not become a cog in the relentless wheel of entertainment.
And I mean…In 13 Asian countries (Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodiascha, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam) still live between 44,000 and 49,000 wild elephants (CITES, 2017).
At the same time, according to official figures, at least 15,000 elephants are kept in captivity in these countries, most of them in Myanmar.
The actual number of animals caught is probably significantly higher because not all individuals are officially registered (CITES, 2016). The information on animals in captivity as well as in the wild also differ greatly depending on the source.
Originally, elephants were mainly used as work animals.
The elephants now in captivity are mainly used in tourism.
Like all wild animals, elephants never give up their nature.
A wild elephant would never let a human ride on its back.
In order to achieve that elephants submit to humans, allow direct contact and obey orders, they are broken by force.
The use of elephants for work or entertainment is enforced and based on the concept of negative reinforcement. Physical and mental punishment as well as the deprivation of vital things such as water, food and sleep are supposed to break the will of the elephant.
It is no coincidence that the method used for this is called “breaking” and is reminiscent of methods used in torture prisons.
The herd animals are isolated and starved, and water is often withheld from them until they are ready to do what their mahout says.
Sometimes young animals are also torn from their mothers and made compliant with fire.
According to the Pro Wildlife organization, the black market value of an elephant calf in Thailand is 24,500 euros.
The mahout mostly uses metal hooks that are stuck into the sensitive ears or trunk areas.
The blows often in the face and eyes leave painful wounds.
After the “crush” procedure (breaking of will) the suffering of the animals is far from over: Even during their further life in captivity, the animals are continuously abused physically and mentally.
The wooden frames in which the holidaymakers usually sit are also a torture for the animals.
In some cases, metal chains with pointed hooks are tied around the elephants’ feet, with the help of which the “mahout” forces the elephant to move in the direction of travel.
Cruelty to animals for the business with the holidaymakers, who then quite routinely rate the show program on the Internet with “the elephant ride was very nice”.
There can be no show, no favor, no football game with the free will of a wild animal.
Even the dumbest tourist should finally get that.
My best regards to all, Venus