Countries in Asia, including India, continue to grow the captive elephant industry for elephant rides and performances to meet irresponsible tourist demands.
A new report released by World Animal Protection reveals that more than three quarters of nearly three thousand elephants used in tourist entertainment in Asia are kept in severely cruel conditions.
Riding an elephant is one of the most popular tourist activities in Asia. World Animal Protection investigated the conditions endured by 2,923 elephants at tourist venues in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Nepal, India, Laos and Cambodia and found that 77% of them were treated appallingly.
In India 116 elephants continue to endure abuse to entertain tourists at Amer Fort in Rajasthan. Elephants are also widely abused in Kerala in temples and for tourist attraction purposes. Elephants are exploited in national parks and sanctuaries for giving rides to tourists to view wildlife. Most of India’s 3500 captive elephants are used in some form of riding activity.
Thailand is the main concern using twice as many elephants in tourism than all the other Asian countries combined. Tourism to Thailand doubled from 15.9 million to 32.6 million visitors between 2010 and 2016, contributing to a 30% rise (1,688 to 2,198) in elephants held in captivity for tourist activities. The research also found that several venues in Thailand cater to thousands of visitors daily, generating estimated profits of tens of thousands of dollars per month from exploiting Asian elephants – an endangered species.
When not giving rides or performing, elephants are typically chained day and night, most of the time to chains less than 3m long. They are also fed poor diets, given limited veterinary care and are frequently kept on concrete floors in stressful locations near loud music, roads or visitor groups.
These conditions take no account of the elephants’ intelligence, behaviours and needs and follow the severe trauma endured by elephants in their early years. This is caused by separation from their mothers and harsh training regimes to break their spirits and make them submissive enough to give rides and perform.
Gajender K Sharma, India Country Director at World Animal Protection, said, “The cruel trend of elephants used for rides and shows is growing – we want tourists to know that many of these elephants are taken from their mothers as babies, forced to endure harsh training and suffer poor living conditions throughout their life.
There is an urgent need for tourist education and regulation of wildlife tourist attractions worldwide. Venues that offer tourists a chance to watch elephants in genuine sanctuaries are beacons of hope that can encourage the urgently-needed shift in the captive elephant tourism industry.”
The government has now made it mandatory for all companies that have a turnover of Rs 1,000 crore or more to spend 2% of its net profit on CSR activities. We need to improve our approach towards animal Welfare and implement a more humane and sustainable solution.
The CSR Journal Team