A new report from international animal welfare organisation, World Animal Protection exposes dismal conditions of elephants at entertainment venues in India and alarming elephant tourism trends across Asia. These trends are expected to get worse as venues try to fill the income shortfall following COVID-19. Also Read - World Elephant Day 2020: An Urgent Need to Protect And Preserve Our 'Gentle & Giant' Friends
The third edition of the report – Elephants. Not commodities – was release today on World Elephant Day. It compares research spanning a decade into elephant tourism, assessing venues across Thailand, India, Laos, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia.
According to the report, India is home to the second-highest number of elephants used in tourism in Asia, and of the 21 venues housing 509 elephants, the report found 45% (225) of the elephants were kept in severely inadequate conditions.
“The findings of this report are truly shocking. In India, elephants are revered and are considered a heritage animal. And yet we are witnessing that there are 21 venues housing over 500 elephants for the entertainment of people. This is completely unacceptable. Elephants are wild animals and they belong in the wild. I urge the Indian government to effectively enforce existing wildlife protection laws to stop trade of wild animals and wild animal products,” said Gajender K Sharma, Country Director, World Animal Protection India.
In India, World Animal Protection is working to phase out elephant rides at the Amer Fort in Jaipur, where over 100 elephants are providing daily rides to thousands of tourists. Across Asia, there are over 3,800 captive elephants in 357 elephant tourism venues. Thailand is home to three-quarters of the elephants and has seen a shocking 70 per cent increase in their number in just 10 years.
The findings are horrifying, revealing that 2,390 (63 per cent ) elephants are suffering in severely dire conditions at 208 venues across the countries studied, and of those just 279 (7 per cent ) elephants are kept in high-welfare venues.
This is in contrast to 2015 when 2,242 (77 per cent ) of elephants lived in severely inadequate conditions, and 194 (7 per cent ) lived in high-welfare venues. Wild animals are traded for the purpose of our entertainment, for medicine, and are treated as products. This cruel trade causes the suffering of millions of animals and endangers the health of people with pandemics like COVID-19.
“Tourists need to know the truth – any elephant that you can get close enough to touch, is an elephant that’s been subjected to horrific abuse for this use. It’s not just riding and circus-style shows that involve suffering – it’s the bathing and selfie opportunities that you might find at so-called ‘sanctuaries’, ‘orphanages’ or ‘rescue centres’. This isn’t innocent fun. This is cruelty,” said Audrey Mealia, Global Head of Wildlife at World Animal Protection.
World Animal Protection has launched a global appeal to ban the trade of wild animals forever. The organisation is appealing to the leader of the G20 nation to agree for this global ban when they meet for the G20 nations summit in November.
In India, World Animal Protection is urging Prime Minister, Narendra Modi to support the global call for wildlife trade ban when he represents the country at the G20 summit. World Animal Protection has also requested the World Health Organisation to permanently ban all wildlife markets around the globe in the wake of coronavirus pandemic and to take a highly precautionary approach to the wildlife trade.
The aggravated risk to human health caused from close contact to wild animals in the wildlife trade and in entertainment can no longer be ignored. World Animal Protection is calling on everyone, from holidaymakers to tourist operators, to take responsibility and put an end to the exploitation of wild animals forever – less demand will mean less elephant suffering.