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Into the wild

Is elephant tourism ethical?

No. Using elephants to see monuments as in Amer Fort, Rajasthan or riding on them to feel good in zoos or seeing them in those dreadful tourist trap festivals in Kerala or having them bow to you in temples – is vulgar and cruel. Elephants are intelligent, wild animals, who have close family ties, show empathy and are among the few animals which exhibit signs of self-awareness.

They are taken from the jungles, beaten every day to obey, kept tied to short chains, isolated from other elephants and left without access to proper food or veterinary care. Baby elephants are also separated from their mothers, starved and placed in cages. They are often kept in inadequate conditions and are subject to extremely cruel training practices involving beatings and stabbings with bull-hooks, removal of eyes, and burning of their soles. Their mahouts are usually vicious, sadistic alcoholics. These elephants are much more likely to display chronic repetitive behaviour that are a visible signs of stress. So, what is responsible elephant tourism? You could experience the feeling of being with elephants in their natural environment by visiting a National Park. You could also volunteer with organisations that work towards elephant rehabilitation. Go and see the elephant rehabilitation centre in Mathura run by Wildlife SOS. It is a place where abused elephants are rescued and given a home.

What should I do if a bull charges me?

Why would you put yourself in the path of a bull is beyond me. Normally, a bull avoids people and is quite docile. So, you must have done something extremely provocative for him to feel threatened. Before a bull charges he will perform a broadside threat; standing or walking sideways to you, pawing the dirt, growling etc – these are his ways of showing you how big and powerful he is. At this point, you should be directly facing the bull and returning his threat – this sometimes gets the bull to back off. Start backing away slowly but do not run or turn your back to it. Look for an escape route immediately. Preferably a shorter one because a bull can easily outrun you.

Don't lie down. While this may work with a horse, you will most likely be trampled by a bull. Don't turn your back towards the bull and start running, this will provoke him to chase you. Make a commotion. Take off an article of clothing such as a hat or even your shirt if necessary. As the bull nears, throw the object as hard as you can to the right or the left in a horizontal manner. The bull should follow the target away from you. Jump out of the way if you have to. If this doesn't work, and you think you do not have an escape route, find a stick and hit the bull across it's muzzle. This will deter him. While this might seem inhuman, it is the only way to save yourself under life-threatening circumstances.

(Views expressed and information provided are personal. Send your questions to manekaanimallove@gmail.com)

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