MATHURA, India, August 10 (Reuters) – After an evening walk under overcast skies with rain not far away, elephants rescued from circuses and temples in India are treated to a feast of their favorite fruits and vegetables to celebrate World Elephant Day.
A lavish array of watermelons, bananas, papayas, and pumpkins is laid out for Asian elephants at a sanctuary near the banks of the Yamuna River, on the outskirts of Mathura’s ancient city.
The Center observes a week of events surrounding World Elephant Day, which falls on August 12.
Conservationists with Wildlife SOS, the company that runs the sanctuary, said most of the 28 elephants at the center suffer from chronic illnesses and a wide range of ailments ranging from abscesses, cataracts, blindness, and arthritis.
Shirina Sawhney from Wildlife SOS, the company that manages India’s only elephant hospital, said: “World Elephant Day aims to promote awareness about the plight of elephants in India and around the world, and what they’re really going through and why their population is dwindling.
Elephants are an important part of Indian culture and are often seen in festivals and processions in the south of the country. They were also used in the north and west as tourist attractions at some forts and palaces.
However, while revered as cultural and religious icons, elephants are also mistreated by the uneducated and often fall victim to electric shocks, poaching, train accidents, and poisoning.
The number of wild Asian elephants, mainly found in India and parts of South and Southeast Asia, has dropped to less than 50,000, just 15% of its historical average, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature.