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Captive Concerns
Published by N.V.K. Ashraf, Jacob V. Cheeran, Anand Ramanathan and Bahar Dutt, 01 Nov 2001
An Occasional Report of the health and management of captive elephants in Jaipur. Of the 5000 captive elephants in India, a 100-odd live in the city of Jaipur, under conditions that are greatly different from their natural habitat. Lack of green fodder and adequate water leads to health problems, which were addressed by a team of veterinarians at a health camp conducted over three days in Jaipur. This Occasional Report brings to light major issues concerning captive elephants.
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Elephants live in a wide variety of habitats from semi-arid regions to mountains, 10,000 feet in height. But these are really exceptions. Mostly, they prefer deciduous forest and open savannahs, rangelands that abut forest areas and even croplands - all ecosystems characterised by plentiful water and green browse. In captivity, too, elephants need these factors along with social accompaniment and space, to lead a life of comparative well-being.

India has a 4000-year old history of keeping wild elephants and WTI believes that this practice is slowly changing in a manner that a time would soon arise when elephants would not be captive at all. Currently, the Indian scenario is such that elephants in captivity are a reality. What then must we strive for when we look at these captive wild animals? Indeed, the very base parameters that are needed by wild elephants, i. e. space, social structure, green forage and plentiful water. To see captive elephants in Rajasthan, therefore, is extremely painful as both the latter conditions are clearly not met. In Jaipur, over a hundred elephants are used for tourism to take tourists over sun-baked paving stones and tar, up the Amer fort and back. The soft-pads of the forest-dwelling elephant are not comparable to the hard hooves of a camel. Lack of green fodder leads to vitamin deficiencies and both foot and eye ailments plague these animals. The captive health camp that WTI held along with two leading elephant vets from Kerala Dr. Panicker and Dr. Cheeran and the Jaipur based NGO 'Help in Suffering' revealed exactly that. This occasional report is a testimony of what is wrong in captive elephant care in the country.

Vivek Menon
Executive Director, WTI
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