Outcry over jumbo diplomatic gift

Outcry over jumbo diplomatic gift
By Habib Beary
BBC News, Bangalore

BBC News
Feb 7 2005

Fears that Veda may not be able to adjust

A plan to gift an Indian elephant to Armenia has led to an outcry by
animal rights activists.

They say six-year-old Veda will find it difficult to adjust to the
colder climate in the former Soviet republic.

She is currently lodged at the Bannerghatta national park on the
outskirts of the southern Indian city of Bangalore.

Indian animal rights groups have roped in the London-based Born Free
Foundation (BFF) in their campaign, as they believe it could
jeopardise the life of the young pachyderm.

“There are many other ways to improve relations between New Delhi and
Yerevan, which will not involve the potential suffering and possible
demise of animals,” says BFF chief executive officer Bill Travers.

The group has written to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking
his intervention to stop Veda’s migration.

In Armenia temperatures are totally unsuitable for Veda

Dr HA Tanuja, veterinarian

The Armenian authorities approached India for an elephant to partner
with Grand, a nine-year-old male elephant at Yerevan zoo.

Veda was chosen by authorities to replace seven-year-old Komala, who
died in mysterious circumstances at the century-old Mysore zoo last

Yerevan zoo director Sahak Abovyan is unimpressed.

“There are 50,000 elephants in India but they [protesters] just do
not want to give us one,” he is quoted as saying.

“They do not want the elephant to leave their country. They are very
odd people.”


People for Animals, which is spearheading the protests, says Veda
will find it difficult to adjust from India’s tropical climate to a
land where temperatures regularly fall to -14C and below in winter.

“In Armenia temperatures are totally unsuitable for Veda.

Veda replaced Komala who died mysteriously

“Another worry is moving her from a biological park to a zoo where
she will be confined,” says Dr HA Tanuja, a veterinarian attached to
the group.

The winter enclosure meant for Veda in Armenia is said to be less
than 2,500 sq ft, which is not enough to house an elephant.

Besides the prospect of facing the harsh winter, Veda also faces
separation from her herd, animal activists say.

Veda lives with her mother and grandmother and separation is thought
likely to be extremely painful considering female elephants rarely
ever leave their herd.

PFA has launched a petition to mobilise support for their cause.
School children also recently marched in Bangalore to show their

“There is support for our movement. We have collected nearly 5,000
signatures,” says Dr Tanuja.

Keeper keen

However, Veda’s keeper at the national park, Bhaskar, sees nothing
wrong in sending her to Armenia.

“There is no need for any worry. They will take care of her,” says
Bhaskar, who will accompany Veda during the initial period of her
stay there.

Bhaskar has been looking after Veda since birth.

“She is a nice and friendly elephant,” he says while feeding her

The local forest department says it has no role in the decision to
fly out Veda.

“The central government [in Delhi] has taken a decision. We are only
following orders,” Karnataka Principal Conservator of Wildlife Ram
Mohan Ray told the BBC.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress