By M.K. Madhusoodan
BANGALORE: Internationally acclaimed animal behaviorist, who specializes in elephants, Margaret Whittaker, arrived at Bannerghata Biological Park (BBP) together with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India and Animal Rahat veterinarians to train BBP mahouts in managing Sunder and other elephants without chains.
Whittaker is known globally for her work in using positive reinforcement techniques, not punishment to elephants.
Sunder, a formerly-abused temple elephant who was beaten and kept tightly chained alone in a dark shed before being rescued following a PETA campaign and a Supreme Court direction to send him to a sanctuary.
Whittaker began her career with animals at the Houston Zoo where she developed positive reinforcement training (PRT) techniques. For the past 16 years, she has been with Active Environments as a behavioral consultant working with zoos and sanctuaries in The Americas, Europe, and Asia.
PETA is working with BBP on fencing a 49.5 hectare forested area and an enclosure where male elephants can be kept chain-free during musth (period of sexual urge) instead of using the traditional method of keeping male elephants in musth in chains.
"We are grateful to BBP for giving Sunder a better life, and for showing commitment to a transition to a chain-free system of handling elephants. PETA is honoured to be able to help BBP enrich the lives of the elephants it takes care of," Dr Manilal Valliyate, Director of Veterinary Affairs, PETA India, said.