India’s overweight temple elephants to go on diet

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September 18, 2012

All of the temple elephants in Tamil Nadu are being put on a diet after officials feared overfeeding was making them obese. Elephants are important in the Hindu religion and are often fed sweets and rice rather than their natural diets.

September 18, 2012

All of the temple elephants in Tamil Nadu are being put on a diet after officials feared overfeeding was making them obese. Elephants are important in the Hindu religion and are often fed sweets and rice rather than their natural diets.

All temple elephants in Tamil Nadu state, in the far south of India, have been found to be obese with some more than 1,120 lbs overweight, according to the BBC's Tamil Service.

Their condition is blamed partly on the lack of exercise caused by their captivity – many of them are chained close to the temple's gates – and overfeeding by pilgrims who believe it will bring them blessings. Elephants are worshipped in India as a symbol of the Hindu deity Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed God of all new ventures and the remover of obstacles.

Hundreds of elephants are kept at temples throughout India and hired to take part in religious festivals. Many more are kept as beasts of burden, tourist transport, and wedding and party animals. They can be hired for children's parties in local toy shops for less than $32.

Because of their religious symbolism they are often fed sweets and rice rather than the bamboo, grass and fruits they eat in their natural jungle habitats.

One temple official told the BBC he was concerned about the scale of obesity. "The female temple elephant – 15 year-old Parvathi – is overweight by 1,120 lbs and efforts are on to reduce it," said Pon Jayaraman, of the Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple.

Another temple has an elephant believed to be 1,540 lbs overweight.

Conservationists believe the practice is cruel to the animals and that elephants are herd animals which need regular access to water, jungle vegetation and the company of other tuskars.


Courtesy: Daily Telegraph

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