PETA India Sends Legal Notice To Rajasthan Government Departments Over Cruel Elephant Rides

For Immediate Release:

1 June 2018


Nikunj Sharma; [email protected]

Nirali Gada; [email protected]

Group Warns of Legal Action if Rides Are Not Stopped

Jaipur – In light of the latest damning report by inspectors authorised by the government’s Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) revealing the shocking abuse of captive elephants forced to give rides to tourists at Amber Fort and Elephant Village (Hathigaon) in Jaipur, Rajasthan, as well as the use of blind elephants and many suffering from tuberculosis (TB) for these rides, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India sent legal notices to the Rajasthan Department of Archaeology & Museums and Forest Department asking them to stop apparently illegal elephant rides, which are currently permitted by both departments at Amber Fort and Hathigaon, within three days of receiving the notice.

In response, PETA India received a letter from the Superintendent of the Department of Archaeology & Museums, who has forwarded a copy of the notice to the Chief Wildlife Warden (CWLW) of Rajasthan stating that since the department requires a health certificate from the zoo and a No Objection Certificate from the CWLW before granting permission for rides, the CWLW should determine whether the elephant rides should be permitted.

In the legal notice, PETA India pointed out that these rides are illegal because none of the elephants used are registered with the AWBI, in apparent violation of the Performing Animals (Registration) Rules, 2001, framed under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, and the 2010 order of the Rajasthan government which mandates that any use of elephants in any film, serial, advertisement, function, sport, event, exhibition, mela, or other type of performance, including rides, requires permission from the AWBI. As stated in the notice, the 2018 AWBI inspection report reveals that the elephants at Amber Fort are being forced to carry loads heavier than 200 kilograms, which is the legal maximum for these animals on hilly terrain, as per the 2008 “Guidelines for Care and Management of Captive Elephants” issued by the central government. The legal notice further explained that the weight of the howdah – a seat used for riding on the back of an elephant – combined with the safety gear and one mahout alone is around 200 kilograms, so it’s unlikely that the total load weight including tourists could ever be reduced enough to fall below the legal maximum on the hilly terrain of Amber Fort, and that the use of elephants for rides should therefore be eliminated entirely.

A copy of the legal notice is available upon request.

“It’s shameful and embarrassing that sick, elderly, blind, and TB-infected elephants are being forced to haul tourists through one of India’s most beautiful historic sites,” says PETA India Senior Legal Associate Swati Sumbly. “PETA India is calling on the Department of Archaeology & Museums and the Forest Department to stop this criminal abuse of elephants and these illegal rides immediately.”

Representatives of PETA India – whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment or abuse in any other way” – recently met with the Chief Secretary of Rajasthan and the Additional Chief Secretary of Tourism, Environment and Forests and submitted a copy of the latest AWBI inspection report to them.

According to the report, among the 102 working elephants examined in Jaipur, many were found to be more than 50 years old. Ten tested positive for TB, which can be transmitted to humans, and 19 were observed to be visually impaired, rendering them unfit to give rides because of the danger posed to both themselves and the public. All were found to be suffering from various foot problems, including overgrown toenails and bruised footpads, and many displayed stereotypical behaviour patterns, such as repetitive swaying and head-bobbing, indicating severe psychological distress. Additionally, the tusks of 47 elephants appeared to have been cut, in apparent violation of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, raising suspicion that the ivory may have entered the illegal wildlife trade. The post-mortem reports for four elephants who died within a period of five months in 2017 indicate that most had been suffering from respiratory diseases – possibly TB – and a heavy internal parasitic load.

More than 100 travel agencies – including global operators such as TripAdvisor, The Travel Corporation, Intrepid Travel, smarTours, STA Travel, and TUI Group – have committed to not offering activities that exploit elephants.

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