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Asian Elephants - PM trip to India
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Letter to the Editor Sent to :
TIMES ,THE (LONDON)
Asian Elephants - PM trip to India
Dear Editor: The sufferings of Asian elephants are as hideous as anything imaginable in the animal kingdom, exemplified by the brutal practice of pajan - the isolation, starvation and beating, often fatally, of baby and calf elephants to "break the spirits" - to facilitate their management for use in tourism, festivals and temples. The wild population has collapsed from millions in the 19th century to barely 20,000 today. Reports that 100 or so travel companies are to turn their back on unethical Asian elephant tourism are encouraging but, regrettably, to be treated with caution. Precedent shows many false dawns: assurances offered at the moment pressure exerted by NGOs reaches its height later dissolve as the spotlight swings away, leaving the elephants once again defenceless. And the notion that a very small minority of travel companies will show the way to all the rest is, sadly, similarly misplaced. At least one large player, having quit this bloody field, is now planning a return. Others claim to have quit, but havenít. Populus polling shows overwhelming outrage across all communities in Britain, Asian and otherwise, at the desecration of this ancient species. STAEís online petition shows the same sentiments across the world. Responsibility for the situation lies not with India alone, but with all mankind. The Conservativesí 2015 Election Manifesto pledged to the British people to help India protect its elephants. In her forthcoming trip to India Mrs May has the opportunity to act, and to lead. She should remind Narendra Modi, her counterpart in India,that the two nationsí governments had pledged in similar terms in their Joint Statement following the London Summit last November. The elephants deserve better than blandishments from those driven by the commercial imperative alone, and their survival may depend on it. The time is now ripe for failed self-regulation to give way to legislation: for a start, advertising in the UK (and beyond) of elephant holidays and facilities abroad should be permitted only if current and credible documentary evidence can be furnished that the creatures concerned have not and are not being abused. Only ethical tourism - genuine sanctuaries or wild terrain with observance of natural behaviour from a respectful distance - should flourish.
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