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People from all over the world travel to India to experience the country’s unique and renowned wildlife. But the physical and psychological abuse endured by elephants forced to give tourists rides has been revealed, and this cruelty is tarnishing the country’s reputation.
Trainers control these elephants with weapons like batons and bullhooks and chain the animals when they’re not in use. Such mistreatment often causes captive elephants to retaliate. Recently, a Russian tourist’s leg was broken when a frustrated elephant at Amer Fort in Rajasthan, India, grabbed her, swung her around vigorously, and dropped her on the ground. This same elephant attacked a shopkeeper in October 2022, leaving him with broken ribs and other severe injuries. Despite knowing the danger, authorities continued to allow this elephant to be used to give tourists rides.
Tourists don’t go to India with the intention of harming wildlife, but elephant rides are inherently cruel. An inspection of elephants used for rides at Amer Fort, authorized by the government body Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), revealed that emaciated elephants with painful foot problems were used for rides, housed on concrete floors, and kept chained. A report commissioned by the Supreme Court of India revealed that out of the 98 captive elephants used for rides at Amer Fort, 22 suffer from impaired vision resulting from corneal opacity and cataracts and 42 have chronic foot problems, including overgrown nails and flat footpads from walking on concrete roads. Handlers, called mahouts, even pierced some animals’ sensitive ears and drilled holes into their tusks, maiming them for life. The AWBI inspection also found that many had invalid ownership certificates, which means they could have been captured in the jungle in violation of the wildlife protection law.
Elephants are highly social animals. In nature, they can walk over 30 miles per day and spend their time foraging for food, working together to solve problems, and relying on the wisdom, judgment, and experience of their eldest relatives.
It’s time to truly honor elephants. Please let Rajasthan’s minister of tourism know that using these animals for degrading and abusive rides at Amer Fort must end now.