| A mahout adjusts his elephant’s reflectors on the banks of the Yamuna in Delhi on Thursday. (AFP)
New Delhi/Thiruvananthapuram, July 24 (Agencies): The country has woken up to the woes of working elephants who either get hit by speeding vehicles or vent their frustration by going berserk.
The Wildlife Trust of India this week introduced reflectors in Delhi to help drivers spot working jumbos at night.
The reflective patches will be fitted on their rears and the bottom of their hind legs.
“The butt-reflector, roped to the howdah (seat), costs just Rs 100 and is the simplest way to protect them,” trust programme director Aniruddha Mookerjee said.
Working elephants are used at weddings, festivals and by the tourist industry across the country often have to walk long distances along its congested roads.
The trust took the safety initiative after a jumbo was badly hurt by a speeding truck in December. The elephant was put to sleep after veterinarians said it could not recover.
“You could see tears streaming from its eyes as it lay in pain. You can’t have elephants being hit by cars and trucks,” Mookerjee said. The trust plans to introduce the reflectors in other cities as well.
Kerala has shown similar concern by issuing a set of rules for their upkeep, which, among other things, insists that the tamed elephants be retired at 65.
The state government was worried about the growing instances of cruelty towards captive jumbos and their resultant violence towards human captors.
According to forest minister K. Sudhakaran’s reply in the Assembly today, the recently issued rules clearly state norms for their menu, healthcare, working conditions and qualifications for mahouts. For instance, elephant owners have been asked to appoint mahouts with a minimum of three years’ experience and an assistant.
The move follows instances of harassed elephants going berserk and goring mahouts to death. One such instance occurred in Kochi in January. The rules also insist on a periodical check-up by veterinarians. Mahouts must carry fitness certificates while taking elephants out.