Captive Elephants Project


18 April, 2014


To all of you who have written to us about Sunder – some with joy at his release, some with apprehensions about his future – we promise that neither PETA nor WRRC are going leave any stone unturned to give him a good life!

Being in captivity is a tragic situation for such an intelligent animal with very critical requirements for food, water, social life, habitat and free movement.

The Hon’ble High Court of Maharashtra has specifically directed that he be sent to our facility, Bannerghatta Rehabilitation Center (BRC) in Karnataka. We’re working against time and within the constraints of available labour, to ensure that his housing is secure, safe and stress-free, and will allow him choices that he has been denied so far.

A team of elephant experts are advising us on various possibilities: solar fencing, shade areas, a wallowing pool, a shower… there’s a lot to be done, and it will take time. But we’ll be ready soon! Please be patient with us and tolerate any delays which may crop up.

Thank you for all your prayers, and your compassion!

Pic: Courtesy: Dr. Manilal and team, PeTA

Captivity-caused Fatality

12 April, 2014

 This is the sad, true story of beautiful elephant Purnima who was unfortunate enough to be a temple elephant, used by her owners to beg for money and food. Temple elephants are deprived of all their basic, essential and natural needs. Click here to read this photo story, put together by Sujata Srinivasiyengar, a core member of the Captive Elephant Research Team in Bangalore. 


9 April, 2014

In response to the enormous amount of concern and awareness that Sundar has generated on the fate of elephants in captivity in the country, WRRC has been directed by the High Court Of Maharashtra to receive him and help him in the process of rehabilitation and recovery. Sunder has known physical abuse, chains, loneliness and misery for almost a decade. We look forward to welcoming Sunder at our rescue and rehabilitation center,  to start his new life and in working with PETA to ensure Sunder will live in a caring environment, be given time to adjust to being able to live without beatings, able to bathe in a pond, walk about and receive the care and respect that he deserves.

We will work fast now although some time is needed to get some critical arrangements into place. Further updates will happen regularly as and when his journey starts…


03Nothing highlights the tragic fate of captive elephants than the plight of Menaka, the 19-year old female elephant who was made to suffer abuse and cruelty in the name of ritual and tradition in the custody of a temple. She was used for begging, made to walk the hot asphalted roads and was denied even basic healthcare. She was made to stand in her own urine and dung the whole day and a ramshackle vehicle garage was her shelter for the night. Her plight was brought to the notice of CUPA which approached the local police station in 2004. Even as investigations were apace, the cruelty to Menaka continued unabated. The Karnataka Forest Department seized Menaka from the temple in 2007. WRRC stepped in to help Menaka by contributing to her feed and to pay the salary of her mahouts.

However, years of abuse and neglect had taken a toll on her health and Menaka was diagnosed as suffering from an infectious and potentially contagious condition that needed quarantine facilities and treatment. Veterinarians advised special diet and nutrition and medical treatment for Menaka. The treatment is for a period of one year and involves isolation from other elephants, personal care, periodic monitoring and good health care.

WRRC has appealed to the forest department for permission to house Menaka at a suitable alternative location and the formalities regarding the same are being worked out. If for some reason this is not possible, WRRC will contribute additional food, medicines and supplements to ensure she makes a complete recovery, while she is at her present location in Bannerghatta Biological Park.

Menaka has come a long way, thanks to her own grit and determination. After years of neglect and cruelty by humans, she is finally beginning to see the human species as protectors and saviours. At this crucial juncture, Menaka desperately needs helping hands and the support of compassionate persons who can contribute towards her specialised nutrition, treatment, care and attention.

WRRC is totally committed to Menaka in her journey on the road to recovery and normalcy.

Gods in Chains

Gods_in_Chains.34105956_stdThe book Gods in Chains was commissioned by the WRRC as an attempt to offer insight and solutions into the existing living and training conditions of captive elephants. The book highlights the often desperate condition of India’s captive elephants – in private ownership, temples, forest departments, zoos, and circuses.

Gods in Chains opens a new chapter in the process of devising and implementing better management and welfare practices for captive elephants. The book serves as an easy guide for students, policy makers, animal welfare activists, bureaucrats, and virtually any individual who would like to make a difference in the lives of these great wild creatures with whom humans have forged a deep and abiding relationship.

WRRC was awarded the Proggy Award by People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PeTA) for the book, Gods in Chains by Rhea Ghosh for the Social Cause Book of the Year 2005.

The case of the elephant Lakshmi

Lakshmi was a begging and blessing elephant, a category common across India and which is perhaps the most rampant form of exploitation of this gentle giant. Lakshmi belonged to a religious institution in Tumkur, about 75 kms north of Bangalore. After duly confirming that WRRC could care for her, the Forest Department confiscated her and she was housed at the BRC. But the absence of a rescue facility for captive elephants resulted in Lakshmi being returned to her former owners. But WRRC learnt from this case and has been working the State Forest Department and to make a care facility for captive elephants a reality soon.

Project Captive Elephant: Elephant survey in Karnataka and India by WRRC & CUPA

Captive elephants have been an integral part of India’s religious culture, but in the past few years, this idea has been exploited more for its commercial value, resulting in horrific training and keeping conditions. Our data collection has provided information that needs to be translated into technical and scientific reports to help monitor, change and maybe even ban keeping of elephants in captivity. There are currently no welfare standards for housing, feeding and keeping of elephants and the publications should help to spread awareness and knowledge on the subject.

The Captive Elephant Project was initiated in February 2005 by the World Soceity of Protection of Animals (WSPA), UK. The first three years were spent in data collection in a designed questionnaire which was handled by trained volunteers, specifically identified and trained for this critical activity. The 13 states covered were Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, Assam, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Punjab, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh. Karnataka was covered 100%, while in others the sample sizes researched are statistically significant.



Reports brought out as a result of the survey, have already been used by the Forest Department for confiscations, court cases and policy papers. WRRC & CUPA initiated background work for legal cases, using material from these reports. A team from WRRC & CUPA met the Principal Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, New Delhi on the issue of banning elephants in circuses. The entire report is available at There have been requests for the circus study to evaluate elephants in circuses abroad and reports presented at conferences have been very well received

Follow up activity on the survey

In June 2008, a well attended and represented workshop was held in Bangalore under the auspices of the Project Elephant (PE) Directorate, New Delhi WRRC & CUPA. It brought together experts in the field as well as Chief Wildlife Wardens from different states, to discuss the various issues pertaining to captive elephants, especially in terms of their keeping, housing, feeding and welfare. The issue of illegal transfers between States was also deliberated. The proceedings of this workshop have been brought out in the form of a publication which has been sent to PE and few other Departments. The Director PE, has requested State Forest Departments to acquire a copy of the proceedings. Currently, WRRC has requests from 10 States of India for copies of the report since it has been perceived as a knowledge document on elephants in captivity.

Have Questions? Contact Us! Email

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks