PETA India recently wrote a letter to Rajasthan Minister of Art & Culture and Archaeology & Museums Dr BD Kalla asking him to protect elephants, their caretakers, tourists, government staff, and the public from tuberculosis (TB) by permanently ending the use of elephants for rides at Amer Fort. In response, Department of Archaeology & Museums Director Prakash Chandra Sharma asked the Jaipur deputy conservator of forests (wildlife) to ensure that all elephants used for rides at Amer Fort be tested for TB and that necessary action be taken. We also asked the minister to issue motorised cart licences to elephant caretakers and mahouts so that they can shuttle tourists safely and have an alternative livelihood option when elephant rides are stopped.
While scientists overwhelmingly believe COVID-19 first infected humans at a live-animal market in China, wild animals as well as those commonly used by the tourism industry, such as horses and camels, also carry zoonotic diseases, which can be transmitted to humans.
A 2018 Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) evaluation report on captive elephants used for rides in Jaipur states that 10% of them were found to be reactive for TB. A scientific study of 600 elephants in southern India indicated a high prevalence of asymptomatic M tuberculosis infection. Another study found human-to-elephant and elephant-to-human transmission of M tuberculosis between mahouts and captive elephants. In addition, a recent paper confirmed TB infection caused by reverse zoonosis in three wild elephants in southern India.
And according to figures compiled by the Heritage Animal Task Force, captive elephants killed 526 people in Kerala alone within a 15-year span.
In its 7 May 2014 judgment in the matter of Animal Welfare Board of India v A Nagaraja and Others, the Supreme Court of India noted,
“Entertainment, exhibition or amusement do not fall under … exempted categories [under Section 11 of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960] and cannot be claimed as a matter of right under the doctrine of necessity.”