By Ananda Banerjee
Forced to beg, stand for hours on end, and walk barefoot on hot macadam; smuggled; isolated; even killed in road accidents—the lot of the elephant belies not just its size (how do you smuggle something that weighs around 3 tonnes and can be as tall as 10ft), but also the almost universal respect it evokes in India.
Thus far this year, two elephants have died in circuses in West Bengal and Gujarat. At least two elephants have died in temples in South India. One elephant died due to abuse by the begging mafia in Maharashtra. Three elephants died in Kerala and around 240 incidents of pachyderms running amok in public places due to performance stress amid crowds have been reported. In a horrific road accident, one elephant died on a highway near Delhi.
“Many more deaths may have occurred due to negligence, abuse and torture of these animals, which we are unaware of,” says Suparna Baksi-Ganguly, chairperson of Compassion Unlimited Plus Action (CUPA), a non-governmental organization working for the welfare and management of captive elephants.
It is in this background that two events scheduled for November have to be seen. One is the first International Elephant Congress and Ministerial Meet (E 50:50) on 14-19 November. “Elephants, the largest terrestrial mammal that shares our planet with us, are a global flagship for biodiversity conservation. Three species of elephants are found distributed across 50 countries today. Regardless of geopolitical boundaries, elephants across the world face common threats of poaching, habitat loss and conflicts with people,” says a ministry of environment and forest (MoEF) statement, touting the E 50:50 meet as “a pioneering conference of 50 countries that harbour wild populations of elephants”. More....