The zoo elephants are used only as exhibits. Their use for
joy rides was discontinued because of criticism by animal
welfare activists. There are only 27 zoos in India keeping
elephants. Some of the zoos are used as rescue centres
for elephants confiscated from individuals for violation of
laws, or for the abandoned calves of wild elephants. The
Government of India does not encourage the
establishment of more zoos without adequate
infrastructure. There is, therefore, not much scope to
increase the number of zoo elephants.

The circus elephants are used to entertain the public. But
they do not appear to have a promising future. Circus
companies in India are constantly struggling for their
economic survival and they have to face tremendous
criticism from animal welfare activists for subjecting their
animals, including elephants, to unnecessary pain and
cruelty. But currently, circuses in India are one of the
biggest buyers of elephants and they are continuously on
the look out for replacements for their old elephants.

Temple elephants, with the exception of one in Punjab, are
all in southern India. Although they are used for religious
processions, most of the year they remain idle. Most of the
temples possess sufficient financial resources to care for
their elephants, yet many of them are often criticized for
exposing their elephants to stress during processions and
for not paying adequate attention to their health and
hygiene. There is no indication that the demand for
elephants in temples will decrease in the near future.

About 75 percent of captive elephants are owned by
private individuals. Just three states, viz. Assam with 1 120,
Kerala with 586 and Arunachal Pradesh with 550, account
for 89 percent of the elephants privately owned.
Domesticated cow elephants in northeast India get better
opportunities to mate with wild bulls than their counterparts
elsewhere. Almost all elephants in the northeast are used
for logging operations in private or community forests or
for other works in saw mills. The Assam elephants are also
used to assist in the capture and training of wild elephants
whenever the opportunity arises. With a prohibition on
logging imposed by the Supreme Court of India in 1994,
job opportunities for the northeastern elephants have
decreased and many elephants have since been sold to
buyers from Kerala, Bihar and Tamilnadu. But most of the
elephants are still being employed in illegal logging
operations in the northeast (Barua, personal
communication.). The Kerala and Tamilnadu elephants are
hired out to temples for religious ceremonies. Some of
them are sometimes hired by the coffee planters in Kerala
and Karnataka for logging operations. Private elephants in
Jaipur (Rajasthan) are used for tourism purposes and they
are reported to be very popular with the foreign tourists. In
Delhi private elephants are in great demand for marriage
processions, social functions and occasionally in political
rallies. In Bihar, Jharkhand and eastern parts of Uttar
Pradesh many big landlords still keep elephants as a
status symbol. Some of these elephants are also used for
transporting people and material in remote areas. Many
elephants in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab are either owned or
hired by mendicants who roam around different parts of
the country during the harvesting or festival seasons and
make a handsome living through begging.



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