Conserving Endangered Asian Elephants
Project location: INDIA, Jaipur
Project start date: September 2005 - Project end date: This project covers various years
Project number: 2005-28
Beneficiary: Elephant Family
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SAFETY FIRST: An elephant fitted with a reflector climbing uphill at the historic Amber Fort near Jaipur over the weekend.
JAIPUR: Traffic is an elephantine problem at the historic Amber Fort, which is one of the rare tourism destinations in the country that can offer an elephant ride uphill to visitors. Amber and adjoining areas on the outskirts of the Rajasthan capital also boast of harbouring one of the biggest congregations of captive elephants in North India.
The elephant community in Amber-which includes more than a hundred elephants, an equal number of mahouts and the elephant owners-got traffic-savvy the other day when animal welfare groups, Help In Suffering (HIS) and Elephant Family (EF), joined hands for a drive to install reflectors on each of the serving animals. The drive, initiated as part of the ongoing Traffic Week, would also include other safeguards for the elephants walking on the 15-km busy Amber-Jaipur stretch in the evenings.
Road accidents have been a common predicament for Amber elephants ever since their deployment at the ancient fort. The most talked about incident goes back to October 1988 when a speeding jeep knocked down elephant Babli in the foothills of the fort. Babli, a female elephant that belonged to Saddiq Khan, was carrying two foreigners on its back at that time.
The case made history of sorts as the Rajasthan High Court, after years of litigation involving the Motor Claims Tribunal, ordered payment of a record compensation of Rs.5.99 lakh to the elephant owner in 2006.
"Road accidents pose a big threat to the elephants who return from Amber Fort after work to their stables in Jaipur's Walled City," says Madhulal Vallaiette of the Elephant Project, adding, "Traffic reflectors will help avert accidents when the animals walk back at night."
The reflectors, measuring 36 inches by 12 inches, are radium sheets put in place with the help of coarse cloth. They are shaped in such a way that they can be fitted on to the hind part of the animal over the tail. "It will cause least discomfort to the elephant," says Dr. Valaiette.
Amber has a population of 116 captive elephants (their total number in the country is 5,000) of which two are baby elephants. Among them, 100 elephants are deployed in taking out joyrides while 14 await work permit or registration. "Despite their high profile these elephants are badly treated and suffer from a range of serious diseases and afflictions," says Dr. Valaiette.
Though the efforts of HIS, founded with the support of the former Queen Mother of Jaipur State Gayatri Devi back in 2003 and Elephant Family, a UK-based animal welfare organisation headed by Mark Shand, have improved the lot of the jumbos in Amber, much more remains to be done. After a campaign by the groups the mahouts have started discarding "ankush", a metal hook used for applying brakes on the elephants.
"Much still remains to be done but we are moving in the right direction. Now the State Government, especially the departments of Tourism and Forest, the welfare groups, elephant owners and the mahouts are working at tandem to make the lives of these gentle giants a bit easier," says Timmie Kumar, managing trustee of HIS.
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City vet receives Eco
Doctor has been awarded for his work towards the welfare of elephants in Jaipur
Dr Madhulal Valliatte, a veterinary doctor working with Help In Suffering (HIS), has won the prestigious Earth Eco-Warrior Award organised by Earth Matters Foundation in New Delhi. HIS is a non-governmental organisation working in the field of animal welfare. Dr Valliatte was given the award for his work on elephant well being.
Elephants that were once an integral part of the Jaipur royalty are now used only for commercial purposes - carrying tourists around the city. This has resulted in their abuse by the mahouts and owners. But things changed when HIS along with the UK-based Elephant Family started the Elephant Welfare project in 2003 in Jaipur. The 30-year-old vet is the second one from the state to receive the award this year. Suraj Mewara from Barmer is the other recipient from Rajasthan. Actor John Abraham, ‘Glacier Man' Chewang Norphel are among the other awardees.
HIS has been working relentlessly for the welfare of the elephants in Jaipur by trying to involve the elephant owners and mahouts in the project. "We try to educate the owners about the how to care for elephants and get their diseases and infections cured at the earliest," Dr Valliatte said.
Thanks to the project, now most of the owners have built sheds for the animals, there is less use of ankush and the elephants are taken care of in a better way.
When Dr. Valliatte was asked about the award, he replied, "It is a team effort. What matters to me is the project and not the individual effort."