Sunday, 30 April 2017

Elephant back rangers

Ranger on Tiger Patrol - Kanha NP
While on safari in India, it is likely that you will come across National Park rangers on patrol, mounted on Elephants. 
Riding Elephants (while traditional in India) is undoubtedly a controversial subject and one that includes cultural and conservation elements as well as animals welfare considerations.
A young Elephant under training
To be honest I am uncomfortable with Elephants being ridden at all, and we do not support Elephant back riding for tourists.
During my recent Indian safari, I talked to a few of the Mahout's and Forestry rangers to try to better understand their issues and need to be mounted on Elephants. Without doubt, I met individuals who cared for their animals, both Elephant and Tigers. Elephants are used to transport the rangers into the jungle where vehicle access is not possible, to monitor the resident Tigers. Which in turn, appear to tolerate Elephants and therefore the impact on Tiger behaviour is minimised.
I met with one Mahout who (while he was caring for a sick Tiger in dense jungle), was able to get relatively close to the stricken Tiger on Elephant back, at which point he bravely dismounted to pour water over the sick Tiger in order to offer some respite from the heat and to cool it down as it lay incapacitated in the jungle. Thankfully that Tiger recovered.
On patrol in the dense jungle
What we can say is that the conservation efforts of the Forestry department and indeed government overall, has lead to a significant increase in the number of Tigers in the National Parks. A matter that is worthy of congratulations and celebration and rangers mounted on Elephants have no doubt assisted in the success. Alternate methods for monitoring Tigers are being sought, which leaves the question of what would happen to the Elephants that currently patrolling? It's likely that Elephant backed patrols will be phased out over time, which will is probably the best solution for domestic Elephants.

Written by Will Fox

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