Also, it is proposed that the elephant rides would soon be replaced by electric vehicles tours.
The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change had formed a committee to assess the health and conditions of elephants used in ferry rides at Jaipur's Amer Fort with other objectives. The expert group prepared a report which brought to the limelight worrying observations about elephants. Based on the suggestions presented in the report, the Rajasthan government has barred the use of 20 medically-unsound elephants for tourist rides in the Amer Fort.
Move recommended by the expert committee & PETA India
The 20 ill elephants have been affected with different ailments including three who suffer from TB. Amongst others, 11 elephants are blind in one eye while one is diseased by an ailment in the right eye. Also, one pachyderm is suffering from bilateral corneal opacity. Alarmed by their condition, the state administration issued orders to the Department of Archaeology and Museums, prohibiting the usage of sick patients. This move was propelled by the recommendations from the expert group constituted by the Project Elephant Division of the Ministry in addition to the requests made by People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)-India.
Electric vehicles to replace elephant rides at Jaipur's Amer Fort
The aforesaid committee, which includes the Senior Wildlife Veterinary Officer of the Jaipur Zoo, was institutionalised working on an SC order dated March 6, 2020. Considering the bad health of elephants and the dropping interest of tourists in the rides, the committee has also furthered PETA's suggestion of replacing elephants with electricity-powered chariots. It is important to note that PETA India has already associated with Desmania Design for the production of electric vehicles and it has already submitted the maiden design for it to the state government authorities.
"We hail the Rajasthan government's move to stop the use of some of the ageing and ailing elephants identified by the expert committee," stated the Chief Advocacy Officer of PETA India. She further added that she hopes that the royal electric vehicles would soon replace the elephant rides that often lead to brutal experiences for the animals.
Grave situation of the captive elephants
Out of the 98 captive elephants whose health was assessed by the expert group, 22 are affected by blocked vision due to corneal opacity and cataracts. The overall situation was found to be grave with 24 elephants suffering from untreatable foot issues including overgrown nails and flat footpads resulting from marching on concrete roads. Also, 29 elephants have crossed the average life-span of 50 and they require specialised care.
2 out of 3 elephants who tested positive for TB were also diagnosed with the disease in 2018 when the tests were conducted by the Animal Welfare Board of India. Taking cognisance of the current situation, the committee has asked for the elephants and their mahouts to be tested twice each year.