Obesity epidemic strikes Indian elephants
The elephants at a sacred Indian temple have been put on a diet in an effort to help them lose weight. The elephants reside at a temple in the Tamil Nadu region have become obese thanks in part to little exercise and over-feeding by caregivers and temple visitors.
Reports say that elephants get little to no exercise simply because they are chained to the front gates of the temple for most hours of the day and regularly are given treats by tourists and regulars who visit the temple to be blessed by the elephants, reports the Daily Mail.
Gifts of food treats like rice and sweets are given to the animals in hopes that the extra effort will bring good luck. In their natural habitat an elephant gets little or no sweets and no rice; rather, elephants in the wild exist on diets of grasses, bamboo and natural fruits.
“The female temple elephant – 15 year-old Parvathi – is overweight by 500kg (80 stone) and efforts are on to reduce it,” said Pon Jayaraman, executive officer of the Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple told the BBC.
Veterinarians have advised those in charge of the temple to begin taking the elephants out for more exercise and limiting the number of treats they are given each day.
According to the Daily Mail, vets have advisded caregivers to walk the animals for 5k daily. In the wild, elephants often walk hundreds of miles over rough terrain.
Dr AJT John Singh, former director the Wildlife Institute of India, called the practice a ‘grave sin’.
“It’s like confining a solitary person in… the middle of the forest,” he said. “Elephants are social animals and have amazing social bonds with one another. Breaking that, and keeping the animal alone, is like solitary confinement, the greatest form of punishment to a human being.”