A report by international animal welfare organization World Animal Protection says hundreds of elephants working for India’s tourism sector are kept in extremely dismal conditions and predicts the torturous trends are set to grow as income falls further.
The report was released on Wednesday – World Elephant Day – and it compared previous research spanning a decade into elephants in tourism in popular venues such as Sri Lanka, Thailand, India, Cambodia, and Laos among others.
It found, in India, Asia’s second-largest tourism where elephants are used for tourism – 509 elephants are used for commercial purposes across 21 venues. But 225 of these elephants in India were found captive in dismal conditions, the report found.
“The findings of this report are truly shocking. In India, elephants are revered and are considered a heritage animal. And yet we are witnessing that there are 21 venues housing over 500 elephants for the entertainment of people,” Gajender K Sharma, Country Director of World Animal Protection India said.
“This is completely unacceptable. Elephants are wild animals and they belong in the wild. I urge the Indian government to effectively enforce existing wildlife protection laws to stop trade of wild animals and wild animal products,” he added.
India is one of the many South Asian countries to boast elephants in tourism, an act western animal activists and as well as Asian activists critically discourage.
Trade of pain
Often elephants used in commercial spheres like in the tourism and entertainment industry are the prey of neglect, an unwarranted treatment where they’re pricked with sharp spears, chained for abnormal hours, and force them to stand of hard cement surface for long hours.
Across Asia, over 3,800 elephants are kept captive in the tourism industry in 357 venues. Thailand alone comprises of three-quarter of the captive elephants in Asia, a number that has shockingly grown by 70% in 10 years, the report says.
Across all the countries involved in the study, 63 percent (2,390) of the elephants are found to be dire conditions in 208 venues. Only a fraction of this number, 279 elephants are kept in high-welfare venues.
“Tourists need to know the truth – any elephant that you can get close enough to touch is an elephant that’s been subjected to horrific abuse for this use,” World Animal Protection’s Global Head of Wildlife Audrey Mealia said.
“It’s not just riding and circus-style shows that involve suffering – it’s the bathing and selfie opportunities that you might find at so-called ‘sanctuaries’, ‘orphanages’ or ‘rescue centers’. This isn’t innocent fun. This is cruelty,” Mealia added.
World Animal Protection is trying to stop elephant ride in Rajasthan’s Amer Fort in Jaipur, where over 100 elephants tirelessly give a ride to thousands of tourists.
In 2019, pressed by popular demand, The Angkor Elephant Group Committee that oversees elephants that used to ferry passengers in the popular 12-Century temple promised the ride-giving will be seized in 2020, Raise Vegan reported.
The animal activism group is now urging different influential governments around to world to ban on wild animal trading. As of now, World Animal Protection is asking G20 Nations to ban wildlife trade in the upcoming G20 Summit in November.
WAP has also launched an online petition urging Indian PM Narendra Modi to support the call for an end to the global trade of wild animals. You can sign the petition here.