The Secret Camps
At a secluded “training camp” in Karnataka each elephant is forced into a “wooden pen” called a “crushing cage” or “kraal.” Once confined, unable to “move or even lie down” the elephants are kept “isolated, confined, starved, and dehydrated.” They are jarred awake each morning by noise. The evening is more of the same. They are “beaten with poles, for up to an hour, for six long months”.
After much negotiation by their local guide, Liz Jones (“the first Westerner to set foot inside the camp”), Duncan McNair, and a “conservationist who cannot be named for fear of reprisals” are allowed to enter. It is apparent that babies are among the “30 captured wild elephants.” “I walk past baby elephants, so inquisitive, and see one get beaten with an ankush – a stick with a metal hook on the end; all the baby was doing was coming to say hello”.Upon further inspection they discover a “magnificent tusker” so skeletal and “hobbled by chains” that he backs away, “trembling.” As witnesses to all of this cruelty, it is becoming increasingly hard to take.
A woman robed in a sari, who is “in charge of the 60 mahouts, hovers” as she relays the fate of a teenaged elephant currently confined in the “kraal.” ‘I look into the eye of the poor creature on the right. He knows what is about to happen to him. A mahout raises his arm, and lands a blow on his head: the hollow sound is the most chilling I’ve ever heard. The elephant squeezes his eyes shut, and tears run down his face.’
To be continued, see:
See also: “Tortured For Tourists…” by Liz Jones
Photos: Dev Gogoi/Demotix