Wildlife organization introduces alternative elephant training techniques

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Thiruvananthpuram, Mar 25 (ANI): In an attempt to introduce an alternative to traditional elephant training methods in India, the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) is organizing a series of workshops.

Australian animal trainer Andrew McLean is supervising workshops.

According to WTI, the initiative is supported by the Working for Animals, Australia which aims to sensitize concerned authorities on the need and availability of a new elephant training methods throughout the World.

The first workshop was organized on Wednesday in Triruvananthapuram, in collaboration with the Kerala Forest Department.

McLean demonstrated the "Positive Learning Method," on captive elephants to over 70 participants including forest department officials, veterinarians, elephant owners among others.

"Elephant training like the teaching of any species involves capturing their motivations and rewarding correct responses. Science gives us an enlightened toolbox with which we can teach elephants to do what we want in a much faster and safer way than traditional methods," McLean said.

"My experience in Nepal showed that change could occur so swiftly that the Nepalese Government committed a five-year plan for us to prove our positive learning method. If successful, our method would be made mandatory throughout Nepal," he added.

The WTI claimed that currently, there are about 4000 captive elephants across India and all of these elephants have undergone traditional training methods, which are considered, by many, a painful exercise for the animals.

"These training methods have continued to thrive for lack of awareness about availability of alternative methods," said NVK Ashraf, Director, Wild Rescue Programme, WTI.

Addressing the workshop, the Kerala Elephant Owners' Federation, president K B Ganesh Kumar, opined that there is a need for establishing elephant training facility to popularize better training methods among trainers.

In a statement the WTI said the workshops target authorities within the government and non-governmental institutions as well as other stakeholders including elephant owners, trainers and experts concerned with captive elephant welfare, to prompt favorable changes in the traditional training methods.

The WTI said that in addition to Kerala, the workshops would also be conducted in Assam, which has the highest captive elephant population and in Delhi to introduce the concept to relevant policymakers.

The Asian elephant has been associated with various aspects of Indian culture and religion for thousands of years. Taming and training of elephants for war, temple festivals and timber yards has been a tradition in India since time immemorial.

There are ancient texts and scriptures that deal in depth with matters of trapping, training and treatment of elephants. This tradition is especially strong in the states of Assam and Kerala.

Trapping and training elephants is an ancient art and science in India but has been found to be risky to the trainers involved. (ANI)

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