By N.D. Shiva Kumar
Elephants are highly social animals, which are active for 18 hours a day and travel as far as 30 miles a day. They live in matriarchal herds, forage for fresh vegetation and love to bathe in rivers, take dust baths and scratching against the trees.
But, around 160 elephants in Karnataka live with their feet shackled or tied to heavy drag chains. After removing them from the natural habitat, they have been forced to play football and tug-of-war, bless, take out a procession, seek alms and take people on a ride. If they stray from their imposed behavior a bit, the mahout will pierce the ankush (elephant goad). Experts say stereotypical behavior means the animal is stressed out.
Of the total captive elephants, maximum are in the age group of 15-65 years and more than half are in the state-run forest camps, while the rest are in zoos, temples, mutts and with some private persons. In zoos, temple and mutts, they are suffering from captivity-induced health problems and dying before their expected life span.
The state forest department has kept more than half the captive elephants in its forest camps --Bandipur, Nagarahole, Sakrebyle and Dubare. The government-run Bannerghatta Biological Park (BBP) and Chamarajendra Zoolgical Garden or Mysore Zoo, have some elephants, while the private elephants are with temples and mutts. Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar of Mysore too has elephants.
Worse still, there aren't enough trained handlers, mahouts and kavadis (helpers). Even the sanctioned posts are not filled up. Untrained temporary staff has been deployed for the task, which requires high skills.
Karnataka is home to a good number of elephant population in India and it is rising. More....