From Carol Buckley, Elephant Aid International (EAI), November 2011
Elephant Aid International’s long-range goal is to create elephant care and rehabilitation centers across India, as recommended by India’s Elephant Task Force (ETF), Ministry of Environment and Forests and the Central Zoo Authority (CZA).
In November 2009, the Central Zoo Authority mandated that all elephants be removed from zoos and placed in alternative facilities better suited to address their needs. The problem is, wildlife parks and game sanctuaries feel ill equipped to take these elephants, believing that zoo elephants are not good candidates for the semi-wild lifestyle their facilities provide.
In August 2010, the Elephant Task Force of India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests issued a 186-page report entitled Gajah, Securing the Future for Elephants in India. The report reviews the issues facing the country’s elephants today, including the needs to:
- mitigate human–elephant conflict
- open corridors to allow elephants free movement between their natural habitats
- upgrade research on and monitoring systems of elephant numbers, demographics, distribution, density and land use
- curb poaching and the international ivory trade
- improve the care and welfare of captive elephants
Among the report’s recommendations is the creation of state-of-the-art lifetime care centers.
Designed to provide freedom of movement, a healthy social environment and autonomy, rescue and rehabilitation centers are similar to what Americans call sanctuaries: a place:
- where elephants come to escape the abuses of captivity.
- that supports rehabilitation of elephants suffering from physical and psychological trauma.
Tourism is not a component of care centers.
Karnataka, Bangalore, India
EAI is using the successful model of The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee as a basis for the first care and rehabilitation center.
This project is designed in four phases:
- land acquisition - completed
- infrastructure development - in progress
- staff training
- elephant relocation
Each stage requires cooperation from a variety of governmental and private agencies. A preexisting facility on 30 acres of land that has a significant amount of required infrastructure has been secured. Remaining infrastructure requirements include:
- additional fencing
- shade structures
- corral areas for rehabilitation, medical care and positive reinforcement target training
- a small veterinary lab
- an administrative office
- housing for mahouts
Once the infrastructure is completed, the next two phases will progress quickly.
Mahouts will be trained in Compassionate Elephant Management to prepare them to manage elephants in a humane manner. This phase will be conducted simultaneously with infrastructure development.
Because hundreds of elephants live in zoos, on city streets and in temples, the fourth stage—relocating elephants—will be the easiest step; in fact, our first resident is already waiting. This first rescue and rehabilitation center will be designed to accommodate a maximum of 7 elephants and will fill up quickly.