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Solving a giant problem

Sign a petition to help build a rescue centre for captive elephants in the city that live in unhygienic conditions and are subject to dust, heat and pollution

Even as our lives get busier by the day, many Mumbaiites have a story of how they've rescued a stray dog or cat from misery and sure death. Thanks to online animal activism, the lucky ones even find warm, loving homes. What do you do, though, when the one asking for your help is a giant pachyderm, caught in the hustle bustle of a city that has no space or time for him?


An elephant has no place in the clutter and dust of the city

Vivienne Chaudhary of the animal welfare NGO, In Defence of Animals (IDA) says, "Rescuing elephants is extremely tough, not to mention, expensive. While you can't really rescue an elephant like you rescue smaller animals, you can definitely treat it. The problem is they live in extremely unhygienic places, under bridges, near dustbins, etc and are difficult to track. With no health records available, their physical and mental condition is uncertain and it is even doubtful if their owners possess a license to keep them. The city is no place for these magnificent animals."

Ever since the ban on captive elephants plying on the streets in Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai was implemented in 2007, there has been a steady decline in the number of elephants seen in these areas.

However, many can still be seen where they are invariably used to beg for money in the middle of heavy traffic and crowded markets. As for the others, the fact that one does not see them does not necessarily mean they are better off.

That is why, IDA, which is celebrating Animal Welfare Fortnight till the end of this month, chose to highlight the issue of elephant rescue and rehabilitation.

Through an online petition, IDA hopes to garner at least 5,000 signatures in support of building a proposed rescue centre for captive elephants and then present the same to the CM on January 31, the concluding day of the Animal Welfare Fortnight.

"Many elephants are still being kept within the city despite the imposed ban. The police and the forest officials seem to be helpless since there is no place to keep these huge animals even if they are rescued. Among the many proposals to build a rescue and rehabilitation centre, one was fully supported and granted approval by the then State minister for Environment and Forests in 2007. However, once he left the ministry, the project was put on the back burner and has stayed there," says Chaudhary.

"The proposed rescue centre was planned near Tilari Dam in the Sindhudurg district of Kolhapur, an ideal location as it receives good rainfall, has vegetation and is surrounded by four villages. It was to be promoted and developed as an eco-tourism destination, which would in turn create employment for local villagers as well as offer protection to the elephants. A similar sanctuary has been proposed in the Shahpur forests on the outskirts of Thane. We hope to see this transform from just a proposal on paper to reality," she says.

The petition has received 2,033 signatures since it went online on Monday. It can be accessed at www.thepetitionsite.com/2/provide-a-rescue- centre-for-the-captive-elephants-of-mumbai.

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