Lifestyle Awards 2013
Wellness & Relationship
Elephants in Captivity: a Giant Injustice
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Elephants who are used in circuses and travelling shows or those forced to walk the streets begging for handouts or to give rides, suffer a lifetime of deprivation and misery.
In order to be broken and forced into obedience, young elephants are ripped from their nurturing mothers and loving families.
Such traumatic separations leave them all with lifelong emotional scars.
There is nothing more important to an elephant than family
. Births are joyous celebrations; deaths of loved ones are mourned.
Youngsters are nurtured in close-knit family units in which aunts babysit, grandmothers mentor, and siblings roughhouse and play.
Females stay with their families for life and males until their pre-teens or early teens.
Elephants who are forced to "work" the streets spend the entire day - and much of the night - walking on hot asphalt roads and breathing in exhaust fumes.
Sharing the road in congested city traffic, elephants have been struck by cars and trucks.
In Mumbai, an elephant was hit by a water tanker. The impact was so hard that the driver of the tanker had to be extracted from the vehicle with the help of the fire brigade.
It was almost seven hours before the elephant could be lifted onto a truck and taken to the animal hospital. Unfortunately, the hospital was not equipped to properly care for her, and she died two days later.
This is not the first time an elephant has been hit by a vehicle - and as long as these gentle giants are forced to negotiate busy roads, it will not be the last time.
Elephants have a keen sense of hearing, and the cacophony of horns and urban noises is irritating and harmful.
Pounding scorching-hot, pothole-ridden roads leads to debilitating foot ailments. Unlike horses and camels whose feet are shod,
elephants are soft soled animals like us
Their feet get cut, bruised and burned just as ours would, were we to walk barefoot on the road.
Elephants are chained by their legs, and terribly neglected when they are not on the streets.
They suffer from skin ailments, eye infections, cataracts and crippling arthritis.
Elephants need at least 200 kilograms of food and 150 litres of water daily. Neither their 'owners' nor any city is equipped to provide this so
captive elephants remain hungry and thirsty
In circuses and travelling shows,
a mother elephant's loving touch is replaced by beatings, chains and electric shocks
Elephants in circuses spend their lives shackled as they are hauled from one city to the next.
The only time that they are not chained is when they are performing
They learn to fear the ankush, which is used to terrorise them into submission and force them to perform tricks for our amusement.
Elephants are highly social animals who lavish affection and attention on their family members
In the wild, each day is filled with socialising, exploring, playing, and participating in other activities.
Every milestone, such as new births and the rainy season, is cause for celebration.
Their mourning ritual over the death of a family member rivals any we humans have
Elephants experience joy, sadness, and fear. Their level of self-awareness continues to amaze researchers worldwide.
In captivity, their complex and multifaceted emotional relationships are left in tatters
Breaking an elephant requires absolute domination by their keepers, and this can only be achieved through inflicting pain by beating elephants and keeping them shackled in chains for long periods of time.
Elephants are genetically designed to walk long distances every day
being denied their most basic instinct can lead to unpredictable bouts of aggression
and create an extremely dangerous situation for elephant keepers and the public - and has resulted in many deaths and injuries.
In March, a chained elephant named Laxmi killed a visitor who intruded into her cell at the Byculla Zoo.
In the first four months of 2008 alone, elephant rampages resulted in the deaths of 18 people, including eight mahouts, across Kerala. The list goes on and on.
Many elephants also pay with their lives
In 2007, an elephant collapsed and died while being boarded onto a lorry following a parade at a temple festival in Kochi.
A medical examination found that the bottoms of the elephant's feet were severely infected. According to some estimates, at least half of
captive elephants suffer serious foot ailments, which can result in severe disability and death
Elephants are designed by nature to walk for many miles everyday to maintain their health and well-being
. The lack of exercise and long hours spent standing on hard surfaces contaminated with their own faeces and urine all contribute to painful and crippling foot conditions.
In 2007, following a PETA India report that detailed the public-safety and cruelty-to-animals issues associated with using elephants for profit, the chief conservator of forests, Thane Circle (Maharashtra) issued an order that banned elephants from the city of Mumbai, saying that it was cruel to force the animals to walk the crowded, chaotic and polluted streets.
PETA urged other states to follow his compassionate - and sensible - example.
Shortly thereafter, MC Malakar, the principal chief conservator of forests and chief wildlife warden for Assam, issued a circular that instructed authorities to enforce the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 and to confiscate all elephants who were being used for begging.
This was a step in the right direction, but
cities throughout India should follow suit
PETA has called upon the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) to begin moving all 140 elephants in zoos and circuses to protected reserves, as the agency directed last year.
Bollywood stars Rahul Khanna and Celina Jaitly have both appealed to officials to get the relocations underway, and people throughout India are demanding relief for elephants.
It's time for those in authority to listen ---
Elephants Do Not belong in Captivity
About the author: Ambika Shukla is not an animal 'lover', she is simply a firm believer that animals too have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. She is currently Director Media & Communications, PETA India.
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