Saturday, April 05, 2008

Elephants and cities just don't mix

- by Aishwarya Pramod

Have you ever seen an elephant on the roads and thought, “I wonder how it feels, being forced to walk on tar roads, in the hot sun, among potholes and a crass cacophony of car horns…”

If you’ve dismissed your concerns with “Oh, whatever, I’m sure that elephant is fine”, please think again.

In the July of 2007, a ban was implemented on elephants on the streets of Mumbai. Why? Because the poor elephants are often mistreated. They are mostly underfed (out of 24 hours in a day, wild elephants spend 18 foraging for food…basically, they eat a lot). City elephants suffer from skin ailments, eye cataracts, spend most of their time chained up and unable to move and have a really sad and boring life, separated from their loved ones at a really young age. (Yeah, loved ones. Elephants have a complex social network, and they even mourn their dead relatives.) Plus, despite their bulk and size, elephants have delicate feet, and can’t walk on the hot city roads. Basically, elephants and cities just don't mix well.

It’s really great that Mumbai authorities have banned this and tried to make provision for their rehabilitation. It has greatly improved their lives. However, people continue to use elephants for begging in many parts of India and I really think it should stop. There are 3600 working elephants in India, 1000 of which work in Assam, in the logging industry. A working life is too cruel for them, and I hope that this practice will soon stop for good.

(This post was published in the Hindustan Times - HT Cafe, City Beat, City Culture page on April 6, 08. Retitled "Jumbo Walk")


Anonymous said...

This always made me sad, seeing them being paraded around when I was a child. I'm glad that the ban is in place now.

Chrissy said...

Hi, just stumbled on your blog. It does seem very inhumane to have elephants working in cities or anywhere in a country. They are such impressive creatures.

Anonymous said...

As I child, i remember feeling sorry for the poor elephants (or for that matter, camels and horses) that were made to walk the streets of Mumbai. Glad to hear that the practice has been banned, though I wonder what their owners will do with them now that they are not a source of income. Are these people just moving out of Bombay but continuing the practice elsewhere?

Anonymous said...

Oh, I forgot to mention in my earlier comment - great post, Aish!

Anonymous said...

If there is a ban, it does not seem to be implemented. Elephants, camels and horses are all used for various occasions - religious processions are most common.

Chitra Sharma said...

Hi Aishwarya
Great post. I have known your grandmother since I was little. Your mother and I spent 10 years in the same school and I heard much of her thoughts growing up. To hear the 3rd generation of thoughts in the family is certainly encouraging. Keep up your good work.
Best Regards,