A Jumbo Problem

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Elephant spraying water on sweltering tourists. Photo Credit: Preetika Soni

Suman is a 6-year old baby elephant in the city of Jaipur, Rajasthan.

People from an NGO called Wildlife SOS have brought her to our attention. They say that she has been separated from her family and is being ill-treated in the name of training. Wildlife SOS have started an online campaign where they are trying to bring her plight to our notice. They are also asking people to sign their names to a campaign to ask the officials to please help her and to get her released from where she is being held. No action has been taken by the officials of the Rajasthan Forest Department as yet.

Currently, her father Bijli is rented out for ceremonies, and her mother, Chanda is used for rides at Amer Fort, Jaipur. Her 8 year-old sister, Peanut, got lucky as she was rescued by the NGO from Moonlight Circus in 2015 and is at the Wildlife SOS Elephant Rescue Centre, Uttar Pradesh.

Is Suman the only elephant who is being mistreated? Sadly, not at all. Wild elephants are facing a variety of problems such as habitat loss due to human behaviour and development. However captive elephants in India face many problems at the hands of humans as well. It is estimated that there are 3,000 captive elephants in India.

What are elephants used for in India?

  1. The Forest Department uses them to patrol protected areas.
  2. They are kept on display in various zoos across the country.
  3. Temples keep them on their grounds as they are a sign of good luck and help the temple to raise money.
  4. They are used in religious processions, weddings, and festivals.
  5. Street elephants are used by their owners primarily for begging.
  6. They are used to give rides to tourists.
  7. Circus Elephants are used to perform tricks at a circus.

Many elephants are made to work very long hours in miserable conditions. They are often trained in a cruel manner. Their health and wellbeing is ignored to a large extent.

Aren’t there laws to protect the elephant? The elephant was declared India’s National Heritage Animal in 2010 and is protected under the Indian Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. This Act states that it is illegal to hunt, capture or trade wild elephants. The punishment for that is a Rs 25,000 fine and rigorous imprisonment up to seven years.

How can we help? There are many small things we can do that will go a long way in discouraging ill-treatment of this magnificent creature:

  1. Avoid elephant rides when you are on holiday.
  2. When you see an elephant being used for ceremonial functions, avoid giving money to its handler.
  3. Do not encourage animal circuses.
  4. Spread awareness about the plight of elephants.

We do hope Wildlife SOS can help Suman and others like her. Fingers crossed! In the meantime, ask your parents if they will sign this petition to ask the authorities to release Suman:

https://e-activist.com/page/22877/action/1?locale=en-US

 


Written by: Preetika Soni. Preetika is a full – time toddler mommy. In the time that is left, she enjoys writing, photography and crochet. She has worked with NDTV, Mumbai and has taught at SCMSophia. 

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