At WRRC, we strongly believe in a rigorous academic and scientific approach to our rescue and rehabilitation work with India’s captive elephants. We began our engagement with this issue, over a decade ago, with our sister concern Compassion Unlimited Plus Action (CUPA). CUPA partnered with the Asian Nature Conservation Foundation (ANCF) to launch a pioneering initiative to research and document the status of India’s captive elephants.
This led to a cumulative publication comprising of 44 reports titled as ‘Captive Elephants In India – Ecology, Management & Welfare’ which documented almost 1200 captive elephants across 12 states of India, sponsored by World Society for Protection of Animals (WSPA), UK Reports
Following this, a workshop on Welfare Parameters and their Significance for Captive Elephants and their Mahouts in India was organized under the auspices of the Project Elephant Directorate, Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF),Govt. of India, to analyse the large set of data collected initially, parameters and their properties were identified, defined and ratings for each parameter and its property were assigned. Later, this entire process was critically reviewed by experts through the workshop.
We took this work forward also by collaborating with author Rhea Ghosh, to publish a seminal book highlighting the conditions of captive elephants, as they are currently used and kept in India. Initially started as an informal documentation, Gods in Chains later expanded to become a handbook of sorts , for anyone wanting to know more of the reality behind the veil of glamour and majesty of the captive pachyderm, especially in temple rituals and festival processions. The often troubled and complex relationship with their only companion, the mahout , is also a story of pathos and heartbreak for a deeply social and community-minded animal. WRRC was awarded the Proggy Award by People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) for this book and it was also the Social Cause Book of the Year, 2005.)
Over the years, we have published more reports in collaboration with experts in the field, also continued legal advocacy actions, and finally established two Elephant Care Facilities in Malur and Marakanam respectively, the latter run in collaboration with the Tree Foundation . These facilities house 5 rescued elephants currently who are being cared for in a comprehensive rehabilitation process, based on the knowledge we have gathered over a decade of research and collaboration with experts, to understand elephant keeping and the needs and requirements of these beautiful, majestic animals who are intelligent, emotionally sentient and highly social.
We are hopeful that our efforts will continue to impact commercial elephant keeping in India for the better, bringing about the much needed change in mindsets and management regimes, to ensure that India’s 3500 elephants held in commercial captivity , don’t continue to languish in despair and abuse.