Agra, 2017.09.15 (Aditya Devi, TNN): Forest officers, mahouts and elephant keepers from Uttarakhand attended a workshop at Wildlife SOS Elephant Conservation and Care Center in Mathura to learn about operant conditioning and humane management of elephants.
On the request of the Uttarakhand forest department and the director of Rajaji National Park and Tiger Reserve, Wildlife SOS hosted a two day training workshop and exposure visit at the Elephant Conservation and Care Centre in Mathura for forest officers, veterinarians, elephant mahouts, keepers of Rajaji Tiger Reserve. The workshop was to highlight humane and scientific elephant management techniques in practised at the Elephant Conservation and Care Centre.
The workshop covered several aspects of elephant behavior and management techniques as well as the use of advanced medical diagnostic equipment for disease diagnosis and elephant care. Enclosure design for housing bull elephants without subjecting them to long periods of chaining and restrain was also explained and shown in practice. The Wildlife SOS Elephant Conservation and Care Center in Mathura houses several bull elephants in protected contact enclosures.
The scientific and humane elephant management techniques such as positive conditioning, target training, foot care, using elephant behavior as a tool to diagnose stress and the need to induce enclosure enrichment were key aspects of the workshop. The Uttarakhand Forest Officers also interacted with the officers from Wildlife SOS at the Agra Bear Rescue Facility where nearly 200 endangered sloth bears rescued from the age old illegal practice of dancing bears are undergoing rehabilitation.The Wildlife SOS Elephant Conservation & Care Center was established in 2010 in collaboration with the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department. It is the first of its kind in India and currently houses over 20 rescued elephants.
Sanatan Sonkar, director, Rajaji National Park, said, “The visit to Wildlife SOS Elephant Conservation and Care Center was a great learning experience for our officers and staff who were exposed to humane elephant management techniques as well as diagnostic facilities provided at the centre. Our focus is to ensure that camp elephants in Uttarakhand Forest Department receive better veterinary care and we want to adopt and promote modern and positive elephant management and training technique.”
Kartick Satyanarayan, co-founder of Wildlife SOS, said “In the traditional elephant management method practiced in India, elephants are forced into submission by use of negative reinforcement, punishment with pain and fear being the primary tools. These are detrimental to the elephant’s physical & mental well-being while placing mahouts & handlers at huge risk as elephants retaliate when handled negatively. Wildlife SOS uses positive reinforcement techniques which are ethical & humane while helping mahouts form trusting bonds.”
Baiju Raj MV, director, conservation projects, Wildlife SOS, said, “We were happy to host this elephant management workshop for Uttarakhand Forest Dept who are keen on collaborating with WSOS for assisting in management & veterinary care of their elephants. There are over 1800 elephants in Uttarakhand currently as per recent survey.”