Baby Elephant on ‘Bandhan’ Deprived of Water, Suffering from Untreated Abscess

For Immediate Release:
18 March 2015

Dr Manilal Valliyate; [email protected]
Sachin Bangera; [email protected]

Animal Welfare Board of IndiaAuthorised Veterinary Inspection Team Call for Immediate Transfer to Sanctuary

Mumbai – A team of veterinary inspectors consisting of the project leader (the Centre for Studies on Elephants at the College of Veterinary and Animal Sciences in Kerala) and a Co-Opted Member and Honorary Animal Welfare Officer of the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) have documented cruel and apparently illegal abuses endured by 3-year-old elephant calf Suman, who currently appears on the Zee television series Bandhan in Gujarat, where she is kept by her mahout (handler). The experts have recommended that Suman be immediately transferred to a reputable sanctuary for rehabilitation. The inspectors point to apparent violations of various provisions of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, and The Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, including an illegitimate gift deed, and recommend that the Maharashtra Forest Department cancel the ownership certificate and confiscate Suman. A copy of the inspectors’ report to the AWBI as well as photographic evidence of Suman’s plight are available here, whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”.

The inspection team found Suman kept in strict confinement with short, tight nylon ropes. She is also suffering from severe skin infections and an untreated abscess the size of a lemon and exhibits signs of severe mental stress through stereotypic behaviour such as trunk-weaving, swaying and head-bobbing when off the set. Suman was also threatened by her stick-bearing handlers in front of the inspectors and was not provided with adequate access to drinking water, appropriate housing or necessary veterinary care.

“This baby elephant has known nothing but deprivation and abuse in her short life, and she needs rescuing now so that she can receive the dedicated care she needs and deserves”, says PETA Chief Executive Officer Poorva Joshipura. “To spare all animals abuse on production sets, PETA encourage filmmakers and television producers to use only willing human actors, computer-generated imagery or inanimate props.”

Although it is illegal to beat and torture elephants, captive elephants are trained through violence. Handlers typically break elephants’ spirits by forcing them into a kraal (an enclosure) in which they cannot move or by tying them to two trees and beating them with ankuses (weapons resembling fireplace pokers with a hook on one end) or sticks until they lose all hope. When not performing, elephants spend their lives in ropes or chains and live in fear of being hit. A television production set, with its relentless retakes and trainers’ orders, is also a terrifying environment for animals, who cannot make sense of what is happening around them.

The news release in Hindi is available here and in Marathi is available here.

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