The ‘elephant's day out' here on Monday, which caused commotion and created problems for both the public and the animal, has underlined the need to implement the recommendations of the Elephant Task Force (ETF), which has suggested, among other things, phasing out the use of elephants for entertainment or commercial purposes.
A similar study on the status of temple elephants in the State, prepared by Compassion Unlimited Plus Action (CUPA) and the Asian Nature Conservation Foundation (ANCF), which will be submitted to the authorities in due course, seeks the phasing out of elephants from religious institutions.
Suparna Ganguly of CUPA told The Hindu that there were 34 temple elephants in Karnataka. The CUPA-ANCF technical report, which was in its final stage of completion, was a comprehensive study of their conditions.
The report, Ms. Ganguly said, recommends that elephants be banned from private and religious institutions, as their requirements are seldom met in captivity. It recommends that no new elephants be allowed at temples, ashrams or maths in the interests of the public and the animals.
Animal rights activists point out that elephants that live in crammed places in unfavourable conditions are stressed, and could go berserk in public, causing a threat to life and property.
Besides, such incidents infuse a strong undercurrent of revulsion or negative sentiment towards the animals in the minds of the public, which can be devastating to the survival of elephants in the long run, they add.
The CUPA-ANCF study observes that the most common type of shelter for temple elephants was a wall with a sheet cover, followed by concrete or stone structures. Some elephants were simply tied under a tree.
Eighty percent of the shelters had stone or concrete floors, and the elephants were found to be chained for anywhere between three hours to 22.5 hours a day, at an average of 14.9 hours a day.
Some 60 per cent of the elephants were provided water from taps, and only 3 per cent had access to waterholes or rivers.
The executive summary of the report also points out that elephants in captivity had less than ideal conditions for sleep. Besides, elephants were made to walk on a range of terrain such as roads, near crop fields, and around temples, all of which were reckoned to be unsuitable for them.
In addition, they were used to perform tasks that were not natural to them, such as blessing devotees, garlanding them, or participating in processions, with no proper maintenance of dietary charts, the report adds.