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Mumbai Is Now Off-Limits for Elephants

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And it’s a good thing too, considering how they were treated, say animal rights activists

MUMBAI ~ Banning elephants from a city might sound like a curious form of discrimination, but animal activists aren’t complaining. Elephants can no longer enter Mumbai,Thane or Navi Mumbai. Earlier, they were permitted with an ownership certificate. But reports of ill-treatment, including the recent death of one elephant, compelled the government to make the ban total.

Suresh Thorat, additional principal chief conservator of forests (Wildlife), who passed the directive, says a dense city like Mumbai is no place for elephants. “This has been a long-standing plea by many activists. After reports of ill-treatment kept trickling in, we realised that we had to do something about it. An injured and abused animal is not just wrong. It also poses a danger to citizens,” he says.

The clamour was amplified a few months ago when an elephant named Bijli died after collapsing on a busy road in Mumbai. The 58-years-old was suffering from obesity, degenerative joints and osteoporosis. A few years ago, it was reported that the same animal had been made to walk some 100 km from Mumbai to Alibaug to bless a couple at a wedding. On the way back, she fell into a ditch and a crane had to be employed to get her out.

According to activists, elephants are often brought into the city for commercial purposes. They are overworked, made to beg and be part of weddings and film shoots. Shakuntala Majumdar, president of the Thane chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, says, “Elephants are brought here from various states because this is where a lot of money can be made. They are given insufficient amount of water, fed all sorts of junk food like vada pav, and not given an appropriate shed. We once encountered an elephant that was being housed in a dilapidated public urinal.” A few years ago, she recalls, a double-decker bus rammed into an elephant while trying to get around it, leading to its death. “Just like you cannot have a tiger or wolf in a city, you can’t have an elephant.”