Den asiatiska elefanten (Elephas maximus) i turismen : vilka blir konsekvenserna av utnyttjandet av asiatiska elefanter inom turismen?

University essay from SLU/Dept. of Animal Environment and Health

Abstract: The Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) has played an important role in the cultural, economic and social life of Asia for millennia, and today elephant trekking and similar activities are a central image of the tourism marketing campaign. Though in most countries it has been illegal for years, elephants are harvested from the wild to be used for this type of work. To transform the elephants into safe working animals suitable to work in close encounter to humans they are tamed. This can be done through a process called Phajaan, during which the elephant might be restrained, beaten and poked. This, together with the training required for elephant performances, have been questioned to have a negative impact on the animal welfare. Traditional training methods can include both negative reinforcement and physical punishment. Pain and other unpleasant stimuli can be used to make the elephant move a certain body part, and heavy weights or ropes can be used to force the animal to sit or lay down. The way elephants in captivity are maintained and held has also been discussed to have a negative effect on the animals’ welfare. Elephants are social animals which in the wild live in herds with complex structures, whereas in captivity many are held isolated with no chance of social interaction. While not working, they are often stabled in small enclosures or in chains, which might be the cause of the high frequency of stereotypies in captive held elephants. Because of the animal being unable to avoid urine and faeces that accumulate on the floor, these small barrens may also be cause of physical health issues such as foot diseases. This study aims to investigate how the animals’ mental and physical health is affected by being tamed, trained and held in captivity, what possibilities and difficulties surrounds the releasing of captive elephants, and in what way the keeping of elephants affects the total population. The fact that it is difficult to maintain good welfare for elephants in captivity supports the releasing of captive elephants. Problem is that because of many elephants being separated from their family at early years, they lack skills that are essential for a life in the wild. As result of logging and a growing human population the elephant habitat is fragmented and might no longer be sufficient even for the captive elephants that are suitable for a life in the wild. The captive held elephants constitute a substantial proportion of the total population, and is therefore important for the conservation of the Asian elephants. Worryingly, few captive populations have a sustainable reproduction, partly resulting from the living conditions. To complement these populations, rather than focusing on the improvement of the reproduction, elephants are taken from the wild population. This is not only a problem because of the loss of the ones being captured, but also because the mortality rate in these capture processes is believed to be 30%. With elephants being harvested from the wild and part of its family being killed in the process, combined with their habitat being reduced by logging and possessed by men and a not functioning reproduction in the captive population, the wild elephants’ continued existence is threatened.

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