In letter to Delhi zoo, global animal care group asks if African elephant was chained for months

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New Delhi, Jul 8 (PTI) The Central Zoo Authority (CZA) and the Director of the National Zoological Park have received a letter from the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), which has sought clarification on whether the lone African elephant in the Delhi zoo was tethered to a chain for months.

Speaking to PTI on condition of anonymity, a source in Delhi's National Zoological Park said the 29-year-old elephant brought from Zimbabwe has been restrained by a chain for the past nine months "due to aggressive behaviour".

This has restricted the elephant's movement and impacted its well-being, the source said.

Nine months before in September 2023, the elephant, Shankar, broke a part of the boundary wall of its enclosure while in a state of musth -- a condition of heightened aggression and unpredictable behaviour in male animals, particularly elephants and camels, associated with a surge in testosterone levels.

The Delhi zoo, meanwhile, has written to the forest and wildlife department, seeking assistance of a veterinary doctor to tranquilise the elephant, which is in musth again.

Zoo director Sanjeet Kumar told PTI that a veterinary team will take a call on the elephant depending on the requirement. A veterinarian visited the zoo on Monday and said a wound in its leg is being treated.

In its letter to the Delhi zoo and the CZA, global animal care group WAZA posed 12 questions and requested clarification on them.

WAZA is a global alliance comprising regional associations, national federations, zoos, and aquariums dedicated to animal care and conservation worldwide.

It asked the zoo authorities if the elephant was tied by a chain since the September 2023 incident, asking further if it was chained for all 24 hours during this period.

The letter, sent at the end of last month, enquired if the elephant was unchained in March this year or was kept in chains beyond it. It asked for before and after pictures and videos of the elephant and its records for the last 12 months.

On June 16 this year, a worker who had been employed at the Delhi zoo for nine years, told PTI that he was attacked by Shankar, resulting in injuries to his thighs. Subsequently, he left the job due to the injuries, he said.

Shankar is the solitary African elephant at the zoo since arriving at the facility in 1998. In addition to Shankar, the Delhi zoo also houses two Indian elephants, according to officials.

The Delhi zoo has also reached out to the forest and wildlife department of the Delhi government, seeking assistance to tranquilise the elephant in musth.

The letter to the forest department said, "The National Zoological Park in New Delhi urgently requires the expertise of Dr. Sumit Nagar and tranquilisation drugs for the safe immobilisation of our 29-year-old African elephant in musth. Dr. Abhijit Bhawal will coordinate with Dr. Nagar for this crucial procedure on July 8, ensuring the elephant's well-being through professional veterinary care." After the Zoo's letter, Nagar, a veterinarian, visited the Delhi zoo in the afternoon on Monday to check the elephant's condition.

Nagar told PTI that the elephant has a wound on its leg caused by the chain which is being treated.

As the elephant is in musth, handling it is challenging, but pus that has developed in the wound will be treated on Tuesday, Nagar said.

The elephant's overall condition is fine, he added.

A wildlife expert told PTI that elephants are not easy to control and chaining them is a common practice worldwide. As wild animals, they can be uncontrollable, especially during musth, and the practice is used globally to manage their behaviour, the expert said.

Zoo officials have not responded to queries on whether the elephant was chained for months. PTI NSM NSM SKY SKY