N E W D E L H I, India, June 5, 2001 -- India’s elephant population isteetering on the brink of extinction because of rampant poachingand brutal training methods, a leading animals rights activistwho is also a federal government minister said.
“Elephants are almost extinct in India. I say this withgreat responsibility because we have less than 20,000elephants,” Maneka Gandhi, head of the Society for Preventionof Cruelty to Animals and Minister of Social Justice andEmpowerment, told Reuters.
Only Males Have Tusks
She said the problem had become particularly acute becausethe country’s population of tuskers, or adult male elephants,was dwindling fast.
“There are less than 800 tuskers left in India which meansthe semen distribution is low because there are only 800inseminators and they are being killed all the time,” saidGandhi, a former environment minister.
“The Asian elephant is not like the African elephant. Onlythe males have tusks.”
Environmentalists say the ratio between male and femaleelephants in India has become so skewed because male elephantsare targeted by ivory poachers for their tusks.
Iqbal Malik, a leading animals rights activist, said Indiawas losing 10 percent of its tusker population every year toivory poachers.
“That is what has caused this imbalance. In fact, 10 yearsago the situation was not so alarming when we had more than5,000 tuskers,” Gandhi said.
She also blamed cruel training methods, indiscriminatecutting of forests, rapid urbanization and the rising humanpopulation for the current crisis.
“One is the destruction of the habitat and the second isthis constant catching of elephants for training, for tourism orlogging. And this training that we are doing of elephants is themost brutal, primitive and stupid in the whole world,” shesaid.
Foreign Experts to Be Brought In
Gandhi said elephants were often starved and beaten whilebeing trained and 50 percent of them died in the process.
“The worst areas of cruelty are Kerala [in southern India]and the northeast. Kerala kills one elephant a week,” she said.
Foreign experts should be brought in to educate Indiantrainers and illegal logging operations should be stopped tohelp save the elephant, she said.
“We must stop the logging operations because logging in thenortheast is in any case illegal. So use of elephants in loggingis equally illegal.”
Gandhi is the widow of Sanjay Gandhi, the younger son ofthe late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Sanjay Gandhi died in a 1980 plane crash.