Bannerghatta Biological Park to Celebrate First Anniversary of Rescued Elephant’s Arrival with Expert Workshop for Interstate Officials

For Immediate Release:
28 May 2015

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

PETA India Will Sponsor Training for Wildlife Officials With International Experts Supported by Central Government’s Project Elephant to Revolutionise Elephants’ Lives

Bangalore – 6 June will mark one year since Sunder, the famous elephant rescued from Jyotiba Temple in Maharashtra, arrived at Bannerghatta Biological Park (BBP) after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India freed him from a life of beatings and chains. And now, Sunder’s life will get even better: international elephant experts Margaret Whittaker and Gail Laule are in Bangalore to spend a week training BBP veterinarians and mahouts about the principles of the modern, humane “protected-contact” method of elephant handling, which uses rewards, not punishment, to encourage pachyderms to cooperate with humans. On 29 May, PETA and BBP will hold a two-hour workshop on this method for senior wildlife officials of Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. The workshop is supported by the Project Elephant division of the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change.

Protected contact is a carefully conceived, well-researched method of elephant management in which ropes, chains and ankuses – hooked spear-like metal weapons – are never used. Instead, the experts will instruct BBP veterinarians and mahouts on using the solar-electric fence that encloses BBP’s Elephant Care Centre’s 49.5-hectare forested area and the steel-pipe corral built by PETA India to handle the park’s 15 elephants, including Sunder.PETA hopes BBP’s Elephant Care Centre will become a model for elephant sanctuaries in other states.

“Thanks to Bannerghatta Biological Park and these renowned humane-handling experts, Sunder’s future and that of other rescued elephants looks brighter than ever”, says Dr Manilal Valliyate, director of veterinary affairs for PETA India. “It’s PETA’s honour to help improve the lives of all elephants at this facility and to set an example for any sanctuaries that may be built to house rescued elephants in the future.”

Whittaker and Laule are known for their work in using positive reinforcement techniques – and never physical violence – to handle elephants. Whittaker began her career with animals at the Houston Zoo, where she developed her skill in positive reinforcement training techniques. For the past 19 years, she has been a behavioural consultant for Active Environments, working with zoos and sanctuaries in Asia, Europe and North and South America, and she is currently director of elephant programmes at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. Laule, who co-founded Active Environments, developed her skills in positive reinforcement while training marine mammals. She has worked with most species in zoos, including primates, big cats, hoofstock, bears and many others. She and her partner at Active Environments developed the protected-contact system in 1991, and she has been working with elephants ever since. She has worked for zoos, sanctuaries and rescue centres in Asia, Europe, South America and the US. The protected-contact system was designed to keep humans safe and improve the welfare of elephants.

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