PETA India and Uttarakhand Forest Department to Hold Humane Elephant-Management Workshop ‘Hands Off’

For Immediate Release:   

8 November 2019 


Garima Jain ; [email protected] 

Hiraj Laljani [email protected]

Internationally Renowned Behavioural Expert Will Demonstrate Pain-Free Methods to Train Elephants Through Positive Reinforcement 

Dehradun – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India and the Uttarakhand Forest Department will co-host a workshop on 9 November in Corbett Tiger Reserve (CTR) that includes presentations by internationally renowned elephant behaviourist Margaret Whittaker on the principles of the modern, humane protected-contact (PC) method of captive-elephant management – which does not involve violence or the use of ankuses (bullhooks) – and by prominent wildlife officials and other experts from the state. The event will be held as a part of State Foundation Day celebrations.

The workshop will be attended by officials from the Uttarakhand Forest Department, the Wildlife Institute of India, zoos, and the College of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Pantnagar, as well as representatives from major wildlife-protection non-governmental organisations, veterinary students, and mahouts of the rescued captive elephants at CTR.  

We thank the Uttarakhand Forest Department for its support in organising this workshop on the power of the protected-contact method, says PETA India CEO Dr Manilal Valliyate. All captive elephants in the state can benefit from this system that uses rewards – not intimidationabuse, or ankuses – to manage animals. Its PETA Indias honour to help Uttarakhand set an example for any elephant sanctuary that may house rescued elephants in the future. 

Maintaining [the] good health of captive elephants is a challenge in the management of both governmentowned and private captive elephants, said Rajiv Bhartari, chief wildlife warden of Uttarakhand. The workshop has been organised to increase awareness regarding legal provisions for the management of captive elephants and increase [the] sensitivity of owners, managers, doctors, and mahouts towards [the] handling of captive elephants. 

PETA India – whose motto reads, in part, that animals are not ours to use for entertainment – notes that the PC method is a carefully conceived, well-researched, and humane elephant-management system that has been in use in other countries for nearly two decades. It doesnt involve physical punishment or restraint, so ropes, chains, andankusesare not used. Instead, a barrier – such as a metal screen, bars, or a restraint chute – keeps elephants and humans separated. Handlers dont attempt to assume a position of dominance over the elephants but rather operate from a position of relative equality. Aggression and other kinds of non-compliant behaviour are never punished – theyre simply ignored.  

Whittaker is known for her work in using positive-reinforcement techniques – never physical violence – to handle elephants. She began her career working with animals at the Houston Zoo, where she developed her skills in such training methods. For the past 23 years, shes been a behavioural consultant for Active Environments, working with zoos and sanctuaries in Asia, Europe, and North and South America, and she was the director of elephant programmes at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. Currently, shepresident of Creative Animal Behavior Solutions. The PC system was designed to keep humans safe while improving the welfare of elephants. 

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