It took the death of one elephant from a zoo, to save the other jumbos

The other elephants have now been rescued
It took the death of one elephant from a zoo, to save the other jumbos
It took the death of one elephant from a zoo, to save the other jumbos

On Saturday, after nine months of near hell, Rupa has been shifted to a new home. Her friend Chanchal died last Wednesday after starving for a couple of days. She had stopped eating.

Chanchal was one of five pachyderms brought to the Fun Fort Recreation Centre in Srirangapatna, Mandya district, nine months ago. They were left there by Kerala-based Gemini Circus, which runs a travelling zoo.

However, After the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) had banned use of animals in circuses, the owners used the elephants in a travelling zoo which are regulated by the CZA. On Wednesday night, 63-year-old female elephant Chanchal died of old age, arthritis and voluntary starving, according to the forest officials.

On Saturday, authorities finally shifted the remaining four elephants including Rupa to a new home – a rehabilitation centre for elephants in Doddahaveri – as recommended by veterinary doctors before Chanchal died.

A cold blooded 'murder'

According to Vasudev Murthy, a Bengaluru-based honorary animal welfare officer of the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), Chanchal’s death was a cold-blooded murder by neglect. He held the people in-charge - the manager Dhruv Kumar, caretakers, owners of Gemini circus and the forest department – responsible for the jumbo’s death.

When he visited Fun Fort Recreation centre along with Dr. Ashish Suttar from PETA and a few others a week before Chanchal’s death, he says the elephants were kept in in an unhygienic environment and deprived of proper nutrition and water.

According to Ashish, the elephants’ movement had been restricted to a concrete platform on the now defunct amusement park’s premises. Elephant dung lay in heaps that had not been cleared by the caretakers. The mahouts, who looked after the elephants for four years, gave each elephant four buckets of water drawn from a dirty well on the premises.

“One of the elephant’s front legs and one of hind legs are tied to a pole, giving them only about a metre of space to move around. The elephants are suffering with inadequate nutrition, wounds, cataract, skin diseases, and lack of scientific foot care. To top it all, the five elephants are mentally suffering. They are showing stereotypic behaviours such as swaying and trunk-weaving,” Dr Ashish Suttar told The News Minute.

Suttar also said that the elephants’ had developed flat feet and that there were blood clots. One of them had a hole on the right ear pinna because of an ankush, or bull hook, used by the mahouts to control the animals. The elephants had developed skin infections because they weren’t bathed for many months or even a year,  Ashish claimed.  

“When we came the caretakers brought some fresh grass in our honour, and threw it on the faeces covered platform where the elephants were standing. The people in charge claimed that they had jaggary and fruits stored, but we could not find any of it,” Vasudev said, explaining the diet to be given to the jumbos.

“Obviously the elephants were of no use, they weren’t bringing any revenue to the circus, so why would they care?” Vasudev said.

Forest department’s lapses

Vasudev has filed a case of criminal negligence and cruelty against the forest department and the circus troupe owner with the Karnataka High Court following Chanchal’s death.

“What irks me is that elephants are protected animals and the forest department has done nothing even after animal welfare organisations notified the department about their condition in September. They requested them to move the elephants to its elephant rescue and rehabilitation centre in Mysuru,” he said.


Vasudev told The News Minute that when two qualified veterinarians - Dr Anil A H (Animal Husbandry Department, Malavalli) and Dr Suranjana Ganguly (from NGO People for Animals, Mysuru) checked on Chanchal on Wednesday morning and suggested treatment with intravenous fluid, the caretakers forbade them from doing so.

“The caretakers said their personal veterinary doctors would come by evening,” he said accusing them of deliberately ignoring the emergency of the situation.

Vasudev argues that irrespective of who owns the elephants it is the forest department’s responsibility to ensure their safety. Although India has many good laws for wildlife protection and prevention of cruelty, people are generally unaware of them. He added the elephant had died because of callousness, ignorance and lack of responsibility. 

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