The plight of Shankar in Delhi Zoo, the lone African elephant from Zimbabwe, continues to baffle and amaze wildlife lovers and animal welfare/rights activists nationally and internationally. Three years after highlighting his plight here on ElephantVoices, Shankar is still chained, still beaten and has no company of his own species. The best option is for the Indian government to send Shankar away to a wildlife refuge in Africa, in Kenya preferably where he can live among his own kind. To achieve that there has to be a way to overcome the halo surrounding his status as a diplomatic gift.Shankar's plight illustrates the sordid state of African Elephants in captivity in India, with the two animals in deplorable conditions in Mysore Zoo as other grim examples, says Shubhobroto Ghosh, author of The Indian Zoo Inquiry(1.14 MB). In this synopsis (1.36 MB) Ghosh describes the fortunes of African elephants in Indian Zoos and in particular a pair from Zimbabwe that were given in 1998 as a diplomatic gift to the Indian President. We urge all friends of Zimbabwe to do what they can to convince the Government that what they are doing is of disservice also for their tourism industry and their own people.
In the synopsis Ghosh strongly urges range states to leave free-ranging African and Asian elephants strictly where they belong - in the wild. In late 2009 India took the enlightened step of banning elephant from zoos - applauded from around the world.
Zoo elephants shunned of basic needs
Dr. Sunil Srivastava, a veterinary doctor with 25 years experience and Delhi representative of international animal rights organisation Animal Equality says, “In the wild animals have their roles and jobs to fulfill. The natural behaviour exercised by them provides the required physical and mental stimulation. But zoo elephants are shunned of their basic needs and Shankar is no exception to this. During my early days when I volunteered with the Delhi zoo, I noticed deep bruises on the ankles of elephants, a result of their struggle to get out of the chains. One of the Delhi zoo keepers agrees that elephants are chained during the period of musth.”
Amruta Ubale of Animal Equality adds, “In an informal exercise at a zoo, we asked lay visitors about stereotypic behaviour in elephants like head bobbing, swaying, etc. The common answer we received is the elephants seem happy and are dancing.”
The grim practise of exporting elephant babies
In the mean time Zimbabwe continue to reach the headlines, for the wrong reasons. Their recent delivery of four baby elephants to China shows that elephants welfare is way down on their agenda. One has alredy died. Fourteen more babies, who are milk dependent, are slated to be shipped off soon. As in 2010 - Zimbabwe show little concern for the tragic consequences of this grim practice. Several countries have appearantly expressed their interest in importing many more elephants from Zimbabwe. We can only hope that sound arguments, compassion and decency will prevail, but we are not too optimistic.
Shankar in the Delhi Zoo spends most of his life in chains and is regularly beaten (note the large scar on his forehead). He was gifted in 1998 by Zimbabwe to the Indian Government as one of a pair. He is now approximately 14 years old; his female companion died a few years after shipment.
Photo courtesy of Nina Kanderian of Wildlife Conservation Society Afghanistan.