Animal Rights Activists Force India to Cancel Elephant Festival

Bowing to the pressure from animal rights activists group PETA, the Tourist Department of Rajasthan in India's northwestern state has scaled down its popular elephant festival.


Rabu, 08 Mei 2013 16:58 WIB


Jasvinder Sehgal

Animal Rights Activists Force India to Cancel Elephant Festival

India, PETA, Elephant Festival, Jaipur, Jasvinder Sehgal

Naseem Khan is a Mahout who takes tourists on his elephants to the world famous Amber Fort of Jaipur.  His family was looking forward to the annual elephant festival.

“All in the family especially elders are severely hurt by the cancellation of this yearly tradition. I was decorating my elephant from last fortnight but all of sudden the elephant festival got cancelled,” Naseem says.

The festival used to begin with a parade of decorated elephants and included an enormous game of elephant polo.

However under the pressure from animal rights activists, the Tourism Department decided to remove elephants from the festival.

“They sent almost 200 mails to different authorities to cancel the festival,” says Upender Singh Shekhawat, Assistant Director in the Government Tourism Department, organizer of the elephant festival.

“They allege that in the festival there are many activities which are cruelty to animals.  After studying the conditions laid down in the law, we have cancelled the show.”

Animal rights group PETA insist that elephants need vast spaces to roam, socialize, and express their natural behavior…. whereas captivity induces several health problems in them that can lead to their death.

But the elephant handlers like Naseem Khan, reject the claim.

“I take great care of my elephant; I never beat or do any cruelty to him,” he claims.

“I can promise you that not even a single wound can be found on any of the elephant in Jaipur. If my elephant ever gets hurt, nobody in the family eat that day.”

Training animals to perform is outlawed in India and elephant handlers now need to get permission from the government. Handlers say they are being unfairly targeted.

“If it is for all animals then why in all Indian marriages, animals like mare and camels are so commonly used. The law should be impartial and should be equal for all,” says Shyam Gupta, Vice President of Elephant Owners Association of Rajasthan.

Asian elephants are on the brink of extinction. But environmentalist says elephant festivals are not the major threat.

“Poaching of elephants for ivory is a serious threat in many parts of the country,” explains Dr. Arvind Mathur, veterinary officer at the Jaipur Zoo.

“It impacts on sex ratios that become highly female biased as only males have tusks. If serious efforts are not made, very soon the elephants will become extinct.”

Nasiruddin Khan has been training elephants since he was 12 years old. He explains the techniques used to poach for ivory.

“The poachers fire a bullet so to sedate the animal. The bullet is freely available in the local market and costs 50 US dollars. When the elephant gets unconscious, his tusks are removed. Often the animal dies in due course due to infection.”
Many elephants are also killed by electric shock or poisoning by farmers trying to prevent them from damaging crops.

Rashid Khan, President of Elephant Owner Association in Rajashtan says many things should be done to decrease conficts between human and elephants.

“This is basically driven due to expanding human population,” Rashid says. “As jungles are decreasing day by day and shortage of food in the woods force elephants to attack the human populations.”

Last month the Indian environment ministry announced it was reviewing elephant reserves and corridors, to try and save the elephant from extinction.



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