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Healing Touch
Published by Bhaskar Chaudhary and Anjan Talukdar, 03 Jan 2005
Health and management of captive elephants at Kaziranga elephant festivals
The elephants of India that exist in captivity are one of the greatest sufferers among captive animals. The high level of intelligence, social requirements and capacity to suffer makes that an unfortunate reality for elephants, anywhere in captivity. Yet they exhibit different symptoms of maltreatment and suffering from other forms of captivity, say in zoos in the western world. While there are an increasing number of studies around the world that is documenting these differences, the health camps that WTI has been holding regularly in a few parts of India are adding tremendously to the body of knowledge of the health status of elephants across India. Without saying, they would also be contributing directly to the individual welfare of the animal treated during these camps. The health camps at Kaziranga are one of these camps that WTI and IFAW have been holding without a break for a number of years.

This occasional report documents the first three years of this camp at Kaziranga. The camp coincided on most years with the elephant mela that the state government was organizing in Kaziranga and therefore the camp addressed not only the elephants of the national park itself but also of all the neighboring areas of Assam and even Arunachal which participated in the elephant mela. At a peak, the cap attracted more than a 100 elephants although this number has been falling over the years. It is also heartening that the vets conducting the health camp could assist the Project Elephant and state government effort at micro-chipping many of these elephants,
an absolutely essential first step in managing the captive elephants of India more comprehensively. Interestingly these first three years show that the welfare and health status of the north eastern elephants are considerably better than those of Kerala and definitely far better than those of Jaipur and Delhi, some of which have been treated over the years by the same team of vets from WTI. The fact that elephants in the north east are working mostly in forest conditions and the keeping of a number of them in large groups may well be a reason for this relative well being. However, as is expected in captivity this does not mean that all is well and there can be several improvements even in Assam for the better well being of elephants in captivity. This report points at a few of these and if they are implemented, the fate of over 500, perhaps as many as a 1000 elephants would be  better.

Vivek Menon
Executive Director
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