International experts in elephant training Margaret Whittaker and Gail Laule have arrived in the City and have been training veterinarians and elephants at the Bannerghatta Biological Park (BBP) since last week.
Sundar, an elephant which was rescued by PETA activists last year, is being trained as part of PETA’s initiative in setting up the first-ever elephant enclosure in the country. The training format is a modern, humane “protected-contact” method of handling elephants, which uses a reward system to encourage pachyderms to co-operate with humans.
Protected contact is a carefully conceived, well-researched method of elephant management in which ropes, chains and ankush – (hooked spear-like metal weapons) – are never used.
Instead, the experts will instruct BBP veterinarians on using the solar-electric fence that encloses BBP’s Elephant Care Centre’s 49.5-hectare forested area and the steel-pipe corral built by PETA India to handle the park’s 15 elephants, including Sundar.
Dr Manilal Valliyate, director of veterinary affairs, PETA India, said, “The training session has started with Sunder and will slowly be extended to the other 15 elephants, too. This enclosure will set an example for other states when it comes to handling rescued elephants.” With wild elephants making frequent visits to the BBP, the solar fences have been damaged. However, we have requested BBP officials to replace them, Dr Manilal added.
The elephant training workshop on Friday was attended by senior wildlife officials of Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra.
The workshop was supported by the Project Elephant division of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change.