Blind elephants used by tourists at popular Indian fort

The elephants are owned privately but registered with the government

Afp April 25, 2018
Tens of thousands of tourists visit the Amer Fort PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI: Dozens of elephants used for tourist rides at one of India's most recognised forts are blind or suffering other ailments, a report said Tuesday, calling for the practice to end.

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Nineteen elephants used to ferry visitors to Rajasthan's famous Amer Fort were blind or vision impaired while nine others had tuberculosis, found a report commissioned by the government's Animal Welfare Board of India.

Almost all the 102 elephants examined by government officials and the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) displayed some psychological distress or health troubles like bruised footpads.

Tens of thousands of tourists visit the Amer Fort, a medieval complex on a hilltop outside Jaipur, every year and many opt to enter its imposing gates on the back of an elephant.

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But the government's animal welfare board, which sanctioned the study with PETA, said the captive elephants were unfit for safaris and such joy rides endangered both the elephants and tourists alike.

"Shocking reports of blind and TB-infected elephants forced to haul illegal, backbreaking loads day in and day out are exactly why these rides must stop," PETA India's Nikunj Sharma said in a statement.

The report said elephant handlers often overloaded the elephants beyond limits considered safe. The tusks were missing on 47 beasts, raising suspicion the ivory was sold on illegal markets, it said.

The elephants are owned privately but registered with the government.

More than 100 were listed with authorities in 2017 but many more are brought from outside Rajasthan, India's western desert state, to meet demand during peak tourist season.

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