Union Forest Ministry’s panel advises withdrawal of elephant rides at Amber Fort

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Jaipur, Jan 5 (PTI) A central government panel has recommended the withdrawal of elephant rides at the iconic Amber Fort here in a phased manner and to replace them with electric or battery-operated vehicles.

The committee of the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, formed on a Supreme Court order, has made the recommendation in its report, given to media persons by PETA India here, a party to a petition on the matter, pending in the apex court.

In its report dated December 28, the ministry’s panel has advised withdrawal of elephant rides, considering the advancing age of jumbos and declining trend among tourists for rides.

'In a phased manner, the elephant rides in Amber Fort may be withdrawn and switched over to other modes of transportation like electric or battery-operated vehicles,' the report said.

'The declining trend of tourists on elephant rides and ageing animals are indicators for changes. The owners of the elephants also may be rehabilitated suitably in such situations. The new addition of elephants for rides should be completely banned,' the report added.

The committee was appointed following a Supreme Court order based on concerns over alleged cruelty to elephants and their illegal use for joy rides and other activities at Amber Fort and Elephant Village in Jaipur, said a joint statement by Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre and PETA India.

The two outfits are respectively petitioner and intervenor in the matter, pending at the apex court.

The committee noted in its report that of the 98 captive elephants inspected, 22 suffered from irreversible eye problems and 42 had foot problems, including overgrown nails and flat footpads due to walking on concrete roads.

“Three elephants who tested positive for tuberculosis (TB) -- a potentially fatal zoonotic disease of public health concern -- in tests carried out by the committee had also been found to be reactive for TB in tests conducted by the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) in 2018,” said the report, refuting the Rajasthan Forest Department claim that no elephant in the state had TB.

The committee recommended in its report that elephants and mahouts must be screened for TB twice a year.

'These landmark scientific and humane recommendations mean that the days of using ageing, ailing elephants as toys for tourists are numbered,' PETA India CEO Dr Manilal Valliyate said.

He said this evidence-based report with long-term solutions for ending cruelty to elephants is now calling for these animals to be retired to reputable sanctuaries. PTI AG RAX RAX RAX