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June 3, 2020

1,821 elephants starve amid lockdown in India

World

June 3, 2020

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, foreign media reported.

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.Joseph Barretto, owner of Jungle Book Resort in Goa, has five elephants in captivity, which are typically used for rides and “showers” for tourists. He released a video seeking donations for “his starving elephants”.

The elephant owners of Amer Fort in Jaipur, Rajasthan, known for using at least a hundred elephants for tourist rides, also complained about the lack of income that disabled them from getting fodder for their elephants. Similarly, elephants held captive by individual owners in Kerala and religious institutions in Karnataka have been seeking help.“It takes one pandemic to throw things out of gear,” said Suparna Ganguly of Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre, an animal rights non-profit based in Bangalore, Karnataka. “It just goes on to show how precarious their situation is when they are in private custody.”

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 and available to Mongabay-India.

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.

The Indian Elephant is protected under Schedule one of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, which affords maximal protection. It is listed as “Endangered” in the Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.