The state of the Asian elephant population is even more dramatic. Towards the end of the 19th century approximately 1 million wild elephants lived in Asia, whereas today the number is being estimated at 40,000 individuals. They are living in 12 different countries, often in small and isolated herds. Roughly 10,000-15 000 of these elephants live under horrific circumstances in captivity. They are being abused as labour animals, tourist attraction and in religious ceremonies. The most serious problem, however, is habitat loss due to the ever growing human population. Deforestation of vast areas, the building of new settlements, streets and railway lines - all this is being done without taking the ancestral elephant trails into consideration. Conflicts are inevitable: elephants are shot, poisoned or brutally chased away, by use of fire crackers and fire.
Asian elephants are still being captured from the wild in order to exploit them for commercial purposes, in temples and as labour animals. The training methods used to force them into submission are incredibly cruel. Stolen from their mothers as babies, they are being tortured systematically over a long period of time, until their spirit has been broken. This ‘method’ includes feed withdrawal as well as inflicting severe pain and fear, and is called ‘Phajaan’ (breaking the spirit of the elephant).
Another threat are poachers, who are slaughtering elephant bulls for their tusks. (Female Asian elephants don’t have tusks).
To guarantee the survival of the Asian elephant, species concepts will have to be developed ensuring a peaceful coexistence between humans and wild animals. In addition we fight to end the commercial exploitation of elephants and support projects and organisations trying to free elephants from a life in horrific circumstances, and moving them to safe havens and sanctuaries.
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