PETA flags tuberculosis in elephants

Appeals to Minister for elephant-free festivals

With tuberculosis (TB) prevalent among captive elephants, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India has demanded festival organisers go for elephant-free celebrations.

Pointing to this year’s elephant-free Thrissur Pooram against the backdrop of COVID-19, it urges Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran to direct Devaswom boards and temples to stop using captive elephants in festivals for the sake of the health of both elephants and humans. PETA notes that many captive elephants in Kerala are suffering from TB, which is highly contagious and transmissible not only between elephants but also from elephants to human beings.

“TB in elephants has been so prevalent in Kerala that it may wipe out all captive elephants in the State within the next 15 to 20 years,” says PETA India CEO Manilal Valliyate.

“PETA India is urging temples to stop using elephants for festivals as it poses a health risk to thousands of people. It has been reported that on average 25 elephants die every year in Kerala because of TB. Elephants can spread TB without ever exhibiting symptoms,” he says.

“When infected animals are forced to work at crowded festivals, they come into close contact with other elephants and humans and expose all of them to the disease,” the PETA India CEO says.

PETA urges the Minister to seek help from the Minister for Forests and Zoos to screen all captive elephants under the Devaswom boards and temples for TB immediately. All mahouts and elephant caretakers also should be screened for the disease.

Many studies

A study of 600 elephants in Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu published in 2012 found “evidence for high prevalence of asymptomatic (mycobacterium) tuberculosis infection in Asian elephants in a captive Indian setting”, he says.

A study in 2013 by scientists in Kerala discovered “two probable cases of cross-species transmission of M. tuberculosis between mahouts and captive elephants. First is a case of human-to-elephant transmission and second is a case of elephant-to-human transmission of M. tuberculosis”, Dr. Valliyate says.

A paper published in 2017, following confirmation of TB in three wild elephants in southern India, states that “tuberculosis may be spilling over from humans (reverse zoonosis) and emerging in wild elephants”, he adds.

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Printable version | Jul 12, 2020 1:15:42 PM |

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