A billboard campaign against elephant rides in Jaipur

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Jaipur : Hathi Gaon (the village of elephants), near Jaipur, has 102 of them. It is from here the giant animal is sent to various tourist places for joy rides. One of these resident-elephants, Elephant Number 44, if you care, has been badly sick with serious infections in the foot. And it continues to carry tourists for joy rides.

'Shackled, beaten, and abused. Be a compassionate traveller: Say no to elephant rides' -- reads a big billboard of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) at the Railway Station Flyover in Jaipur.

Elephant Number 44's plight was highlighted in June 2017 when a group of American tourists at Amer Fort saw him being beaten up continuously for at least 10 minutes.

His story spread light wild fire, prompting Bollywood actor Sonakshi Sinha in February 2018 to write to PETA India requesting sending the animal to a rehab facility for urgent care.

Instead, the elephant continues to be used for rides.

"The gut-wrenching image of a suffering captive elephant being viciously beaten by a group of men should be enough to convince any compassionate person never to ride an elephant", says PETA India CEO Dr Manilal Valliyate.

"PETA India's billboard is the latest step towards our work to shut down the archaic and cruel elephant ride industry at Amer Fort," says Valliyate.

The billboard follows a PETA India report in April that revealed shocking cruelty to elephants used for rides at Amer Fort and at elephant village (Hathi Gaon). PETA India filed a petition before the Jaipur Bench of the High Court seeking an end to illegal elephant rides at Amer Fort.

"The High Court last month recommended animal registration certificates with owners' names. But an inspection by Animal Welfare Board of India and a group of state government's veterinary doctors found that in Hathi Gaon, there were no such certificates," said Valliyate.

According to the PETA India report, among the 102 working elephants examined at Amer Fort, many were found to be more than 50 years old. Ten tested reactive to tuberculosis (TB) test, which can be transmitted to humans, and 19 were observed to be visually impaired, rendering them unfit to give rides because of the danger posed to both themselves and the public, the report said.

All were found to be suffering from various foot problems, including overgrown toenails and bruised footpads, and many displayed stereotypical behaviour patterns, such as repetitive swaying and head-bobbing, indicating severe psychological distress, the report said.

"The tusks of 47 elephants appeared to have been cut, in apparent violation of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, raising suspicion that the tusks may have entered the illegal wildlife trade," the report said.

And all of those examined were seen carrying loads heavier than 200 kg, which is the legal maximum weight for these animals on hilly terrain.

The post-mortem reports for four elephants who died within a period of five months in 2017 indicate that most had been suffering from respiratory diseases and a heavy internal parasitic load, the report added.

More than 100 travel agencies, including global operators such as TripAdvisor, The Travel Corporation, Intrepid Travel, smarTours, STA Travel, and TUI Group, have restrained themselves from offering activities that exploit elephants.