The Indian holy city of Mathura, in the State of Uttar Pradesh and close to the iconic Agra (where the Taj Mahal rises) , has opened India’s first elephant hospital. The center hosts 60% of all the pachyderms of the Asian continent. Opened last Friday on the banks of the Yamuna River and with the collaboration of the regional department of forests, the space of more than 1,000 square meters is equipped with modern facilities for the treatment of injured elephants, the sick and the elderly.
“The construction of the hospital underlines the fact that elephants need as much welfare as any other animal,” Reuters Geeta Seshmani, co-founder of Wildlife SOS, the NGO behind the hospital, located near its center, told Reuters. for the Conservation and Care of Elephants (ECCC, in English). “These captive elephants should not be used or abused, but must be offered the same respect as any other animal if they are going to make any use of them,” said Seshmani.
Equipped with a laboratory and portable devices for digital inspection of X-rays, laser treatment, thermal imaging or ultra-sonography, the center currently houses 20 elephants rehabilitated in the ECCC after passing through various circuses and illegal captivity. But it also intends to serve other pachyderms that live in freedom in the natural spaces of the northern region of the country. In that area, the elephants are exhibited as a tourist attraction in palaces and forts, while the southern states honor them in many festivals and processions.
Although revered as a cultural and religious symbol, the Asian elephants of the Indian subcontinent have also been mistreated by many of their traditional trainers, the mahouts; who have received the family legacy of the knowledge of the taming of this species but lack the basic education in the necessary care for any animal. So it is not strange to see them chained in poor conditions or lacking in care and feeding by the local authorities that use them.
Although India still has the largest number of Asian elephants in the world, its population dropped from about 30,000 in 2012 to 27,312 registered last year, according to government data. As in the rest of the surrounding countries, these animals face obstacles to their survival related to the entertainment industry, poaching or lack of medicines. The loss of their habitat is also a problem in the overpopulated India, where frequent encounters with the inhabitants of some cities to which the pachyderms come as a result of the human invasion of the wild environment are frequent.
“There are thousands of elephants in India who suffer from poor health, blindness, lameness and anxiety, and this hospital has the capacity to provide them with the kind of intensive medical care they need, and we hope that it will be a role model for other Indian States.” , the director of the center, Baiju Raj MV, told the local news agency PTI.
Concerns about the state of these animals led to the creation of the Elephant Project by the Government of Uttar Pradesh in 1992. Four years later, the international organization Wildlife SOS initiated different projects in India, where it opened a center for the protection of sloth bears. , in addition to the elephant care center in Agra.