In November of 2015, ARM investigators entered into Jaipur, India, to document the well sought after destination known for its extravagant elephant rides offered as tourist attractions and transportation.
India’s capital and largest city in the state of Rajasthan ( Northern India) has become a gateway for a vast number of people due to its relative closeness to New Delhi and other popular Indian States.
Working elephant programs have proven to be extremely profitable in Jaipur especially, and generate so much attention that the Rajasthan state government has taken over its administration. The Captive elephants, enslaved to work for years for giving rides, for amusement, and ceremonies, are abused in the process, which is a violation of Indian animal-protection laws. Unfortunately, high demand equals an increase in the enslavement of more and more elephants.
As these attractions and rides are becoming more popular, elephants are being forced to carry up to 900 visitors per day, and often, multiple people on their back per ride. The death rate among these captured elephants has been accelerating at an alarming rate due to being overworked, shackled, stabbed, pierced, and wounded during embellishment and abuse. Herders are aggressive towards the elephants and beat them into submission. During the summer, the abuse worsens as they withstand the extreme heat of the sun all day.
When not waiting for flocking tourists lining up to ride them, the elephants spend hours bound to cold concrete floors by iron ankuses’ sticks’ used for grounding, restrained using chains and hobbles riddled with spikes which dig into the elephant’s legs.
The elephants endure severing foot sores, lameness, burnt feet, and cracked nails, often leading to disabling and sufferable diseases and foot rot. These ailments occur by long periods of labor, being walked over long distances daily, kept chained in excrement with nowhere for them to bathe, and bound to one spot during off time and sleep.
Scars and abscesses are often visible on the elephant’s legs from the chains, and sharp devices used to shackle and contain them. Bruises and chaffing are left on the elephant’s body from beatings, chains, carrying the immense weight, and the harnesses used for tourists to sit on.
To ensure the elephants look their most decorative, holes are cut, torn, and drilled into their ears, tusks, and tushes, where jewelry and heavy objects hang, mutilating the poor elephant’s body for the sake of appearance. Without direct permission of the State Wildlife Department, it is a violation of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
The overworking elephants are often blind or visually impaired and expected to fulfill ride and attraction requests from tourists. Physical injuries are not the only repercussions of the elephant tourism trade. The elephants are confined to such small areas while not working and, as a result, almost always fall victim to mental illnesses. Constant swaying and head-bobbing are indications of frustration and severe mental deterioration that these working captive elephants possess. Dehydration is also common among these elephants who are given little to no water during their working hours.
ARM has been undercover in Jaipur, investigating this inhumane means of transportation and abuse of these protected animals. You can support ARM, and it’s investigations by choosing not to take an elephant ride in India or anywhere.