By: Rana Pratap Saikia
August 12 is celebrated as ‘World Elephant Day’ all over the world. It is treated as an occasion to inform people and organisations about the threats to the jumbo populace.
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One aspect of elephant abuse that tends to go unnoticed is the ‘elephant safari’, commonplace across the world, including Assam’s very own Kaziranga National Park. However, what many do not know is that these ‘fun’ safaris cause a great deal of distress to the jumbos.
Experts opine that elephants’ spines cannot support the weight of people and doing so all day can lead to permanent spinal injuries. There are further complications from having a chair (howdah) attached to their backs. This clunky contraption rubs on their backs, causing blisters that can become infected.
For most, it’s simply a lack of awareness. If everyone saw the videos of elephants being beaten with bullhooks or electric prods, it’s doubtful they would still be keen to ride one just to be able to say “I rode an elephant”.
Describing these rides as “torture”, renowned wildlife conservationist Manoj Gogoi says that these rides are very harmful for these beasts, however, many people are earning their livelihoods with this business. “A solution to this issue should be discovered. Elephants have their lives, and love dwelling in their habitats, so what is happening to them is cruel and unkind. However, if the rides are banned, the people associated with elephant safaris will be worst-affected. Thus, the Government should take measures to assure that these people find an alternative means of employment”, he says.
Speaking to Inside Northeast, Sanjib Dey, eminent filmmaker and wildlife enthusiast, says, “Elephants and humans have been good friends for ages, but discrimination is at an all time high. Elephants are being domesticated and abused all over, and the Government should take steps to solve this issue. I believe that domesticated elephants should be properly taken care of. I also believe that the elephant corridors should be protected. In fact, I have also addressed the plight of tuskers in my film, III Smoking Barrels.”
Kaziranga local Lekhnath Sarmah says, “Actually, a wild is born wild. But elephants are kept captive and ‘trained’ to be used in religious functions, which causes great distress to these magnificent beasts. People derive great joy from riding elephants, but actually it is akin to the Devil’s joy. But since they mute, they cannot express themselves. Thus, I don’t support safaris, even though great care is being taken in Kaziranga to minimize their discomfort…”
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