Separate enclosure soon for jumbos at Bannerghatta zoo

Barrier access system will ensure they are not kept chained

Separate enclosure soon for jumbos at Bannerghatta zoo

Fifteen-year-old Sundar, the tortured elephant shifted to Bannerghatta Biological Park (BBP) from a temple in Kolhapur, Maharashtra, has come as a blessing for other jumbos in the park.

The BBP, for the first time, will have a separate space of around 49.5 hectares for pachyderms. People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) will spend over Rs 1.5 crore to create the elephant enclosure and erect solar fence around it.

The area reserved for jumbos has two lakes for the animals to cool off. The main intention of having a designated space is to keep the elephants unchained and to have a protected barrier between the elephants and humans including mahouts and wildlife vets. The enclosure will have a “friendly” barrier and the much-needed “musth enclosure” for the bull elephants.

BBP Executive Director Range Gowda said that the move for a separate enclosure came following a memorandum of understanding entered into between the BBP and Central Zoo Authority.

“The MoU says that a separate enclosure must be created for the elephants and to have barrier access to these animals. Ever since Sundar arrived at the BBP, there have been many visits by wildlife vets, including experts from the US. They will also be teaching the mahouts how to train these elephants through the barrier access,” Gowda said. He said that Sundar will not be kept for public display as per the court orders.

Gowda said that the musth enclosure is a new concept for BBP where the animal would be kept in a separate sophisticated enclosure. The normal practice is to keep them chained for a month as the bull elephants get aggressive during musth period. The Park has 16 elephants at present and the number would go up as two jumbos are pregnant, Gowda added.

“The main intention of creating an enclosure is to ensure that Sundar is not kept chained for the rest of his life,” said Dr Manilal Valliyate, Director of Wildlife Affairs, PETA. 

“We want to stop the practice of using the ankush (a sharp tool to instruct elephants) on these animals and have a chain-free facility and protected barriers to access these animals,” said Dr Manilal.

Training for mahouts

He said that experts from the US will train the mahouts on instructing the animals without using the ankush - treating the animal to its favourite food whenever they follow instructions.

The access barriers will have windows to enable the mahouts and the wildlife vets to check on them. If the vets want to inspect the mouth or the ear of the elephant, the animal would come near the designated windows and in return, they would be treated for their good behaviour.  

Sundar was shifted to the BBP following the Bombay High Court’s order in June earlier this year.

Sundar grabbed attention when a video of him being tortured by the mahout and others went viral. PETA spearheaded a campaign and filed a petition in the Bombay High Court to free the animal.

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