Taking an Elephant ride up the hill has become an indispensable part of a visit to the Amer Fort in Jaipur, Rajasthan.
It has become so popular that tourists are made to feel like they have missed out on something if they don’t take the ride.
While there is no doubt that the Elephant rides uphill through the majestic fort gives the tourists an experience of a lifetime, there is a dark side to it.
The ‘Elephant In The Room’ here is the Elephants themselves, or the way they are treated, to be exact.
The nearly half-an-hour long joyride up and down the hill costs Rs 1,100 for two passengers however has a hidden cost – the health and wellbeing of the Elephants.
Amer Fort is a tourist attraction in India where sick, blind, and suffering Eephants are forced to give tourists rides hour after hour. Day after day. For years and years.
The Elephants at the fort which are used to ferry the tourists have to make multiple trips up and down throughout the day, even in the scorching heat.
As the tourist numbers grow and the popularity of the joyrides increases the Elephants have to overwork, often without proper time for food and rest. There have been at least a couple of incidents in the past few years exhausted Elephants collapsed and died.
Trainers beat Elephants with weapons and traumatise these gentle giants with a life of exhausting work, violence, neglected injuries, malnourishment, dehydration, and routine chaining. In fact, one foreign tourist recently filed an official cruelty complaint after witnessing trainers assault an Elephant for 10 minutes after the suffering animal tried to escape at the Amber Fort near Jaipur, Rajasthan. Even though the majority of Indians are Hindus – who deem Elephants sacred and worship the Elephant-headed god Ganesha – in the tourist industry, life for these animals consists of fear and agony. Those whose open wounds cause them pain or whose vision is impaired aren’t even allowed to rest. They’re forced to carry humans on their backs in the oppressive heat by men who threaten them with rods and bullhooks (sticks with a sharp metal hook at the end).
World Animal Protection, an international NGO has been running a campaign for years to end the use of Elephants for rides in the Amer Fort, alleging that the animals have been subjected to cruelty and ill-treatment for the sake of the tourists.
World Animal Protection held a screening of a documentary that showed how the animals are treated.
“Elephants are wild animals and they deserve to be in the wild. Amer Fort in Jaipur city is not a place for an Elephant. This is not their natural habitat. We must put an end of Elephant rides at Amer Fort,” said Gajender K Sharma, Country Director, World Animal Protection India.
According to Shubhubroto Ghosh, Wildlife Research Manager, World Animal Protection India, the campaign is aimed at ending the practice of using wildlife as a source of entertainment and have them retired and give them a life of dignity.
But where did the Elephants come from?
Given the fact that Rajasthan is a desert state, it is only natural to assume that Elephants are not native species, which is genetically adapted to live in the hot and dry conditions there.
According to wildlife campaigners, these Elephants were captured from the forests of Assam at a young age and sold at the traditional ‘Hathi bazar’ (elephant market) in Bihar’s Sonpur until 2004 when it was declared illegal. They also allege that despite the ban, elephants are still sold at the fair and are brought to states like Rajasthan.
Once the Elephants are brought to Jaipur, they are sheltered at the Hathi Gaon (Elephant village) where they are tamed and trained as ride animals.
“The village was meant to be a safe and comfortable place for the elephants to stay. But it is nothing than a car shed for Elephants. It is ill-equipped to house an animal like an Elephant. During the training, Elephants are starved, kept on chains. They go through a process called ‘the crush’, they are beaten badly to make them obedient,” Ghosh explained.
Another striking thing that one can notice at the Amer Fort is the sheer number of female Elephants. This, Ghosh said is no accident, but is a part of the design as it is easier to train and control female Elephants.
According to Ghosh, they are demanding a total ban on using the Elephants for rides as the authorities have failed to implement the existing rules.
Rangoli was born at UNESCO World Heritage Site, Amer Fort, into a life of pain, captivity, and cruelty. For her entire 51-year life, Rangoli has suffered for the entertainment of tourists.
Currently, Rangoli is forced to carry tourists on her back, which is painful and creates sores. Rangoli endures this pain while walking over hot concrete and difficult cobblestones that damage their feet every day. Only to then spend her nights standing in her own feces, while chained when she ‘rests’.
With your support you can help end Elephant rides at Amer Fort and can begin the process of safely retiring Rangoli and all the other Elephants that are suffering.
A “once-in-a-lifetime” experience for you is a lifetime of suffering for them. Now is our moment to end this cruelty.
Please sign the World Animal Petition at STOP THEIR SUFFERING.
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