Pet Talk
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Pet Talk

March 13, 2019

In this week’s Pet Talk, Maneka talks about housing requirements, nutrient requirements of elephants

By Maneka Gandhi

Are Indian elephants endangered?

The Indian elephant population is between 20,000 and 25,000 in the wild. This means severely endangered, specially because there are less than 1,000 male tuskers left.

The selective elimination of the male due to their tusks has resulted in a skewed sex ratio in some parts of the country. Now, the Asian elephant is listed in the Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

The elephant is being killed mainly by  two bodies: Temples, who beat and starve their elephants (no exceptions) and use them for festivals and to beg. Private owners, who do the same thing for tourists. Both poach elephants from the wild. Over 1,000 elephants are killed by them every year.

Do elephants like to interact and be close to people?

Human-elephant relationship is socially complex and depends on a variety of circumstances. For the most part, elephants react very well to humans, but they don’t tolerate being treated terribly.

Also, with the human population increasing and moving into elephant areas and taking over or eliminating elephant food, the human-elephant conflict is increasing. This is making the human-elephant interactions dangerous and vulnerable to attacks.

What are the favourable housing requirements for elephants?

The elephants must be housed on earth or sand flooring. There should be sufficient shade and must have very good ventilation. Each elephant must be provided a minimum floor area:

Weaned Calf (height below 1.5m): 5m X 2.5m.

Sub-adult elephant (height between 1.50m and 2.25m): 7m X 3.5m.

Adult elephant (height above 2.25m) and Cow elephant with un-weaned calf: 9m X 6m.

In case of covered sheds, the height of the shed shouldn’t be less than 5.5m.

Corrugated Iron sheets, when used for roofing, should be covered by cooling materials.

Proper drainage is a must.

What are the nutrient requirements of an elephant?

An adult elephant’s maintenance requires 140 kcal of metabolisable energy, lactation, gestation and growth increase energy requirements by 25-50%. An elephant drinks over 100 litres at one time and up to 225 litres in a day. The minimum feed supply for an elephant is:

Height   Green Fodder (Not less than)

Below 1.5m                        100kg

1.5m to 1.8m                      150kg

1.81m to 2.25m                 200kg

Above 2.25m                     250kg

The fodder should be supplemented by ration prescribed by veterinary doctor.

What are some signs of a healthy elephant?

• Frequent movements of extremities; • Free passage of dung and urine; • Apparently normal feeding and watering activities; • Free movements of the body; • Absence of abnormal posture or appearance.

What are some signs that show that elephant is ill?

• Reduced movements of tail, ears, trunk and legs; • Less alert; • Partial closure of eyes; • Changes in the frequency of urination; • Changes in watering behaviour; • Development of oedema; • Anorectic; • Constipation or Diarrhoea.


What are some signs that show that the elephant is in pain?

• Frequent trumpeting or screaming; • Biting the tip of trunk for a long time; • Pushing against some objects, like a pillar or wall; • Frequent sitting or getting up; • Frequent changing of limbs; • Being disobedient; • Charging with sounds; • Attacking the person; • Violently behaving; • Spreading of ears and hissing sounds; • More alert or anxious appearance of eyes and unpredicted movement.

What is the Indian recipe used for the foot care of Indian elephants? What is its use?

The nails coated with the following recipe is found useful by mahouts: • Resin of Gardenia species – 100g; • Camphor – 100g; • Garlic – 100g; • Neem oil – 1L

Crush the peeled garlic and mix it with the resin. Boil it with Neem oil on slow fire for 30 minutes. Add camphor to the hot solution. Cool it. Apply on and around nail region and at insertion points of tusks.

Neem oil acts as a great lubricant. The solution has antiseptic benefits and acts as a good fly repellent.

But most mahouts do horrible things in the name of local medicine. They take burners and burn the feet undersides and nails (I have videos of all the mahouts doing this). They save money by never using antibiotics and making the elephant walk on hot tarred roads so that its feet are burnt. It is important NOT to work an elephant that has foot problems and rest them the same way as you would rest, until the wound or pain is gone.

How do you know that an elephant is happy?

Tail: Just like a dog, when an elephant’s tail is swishing from side to side swatting away flies, it is happy.

Eyes: If an elephant approaches you with lazy, almost half-closed eyes and its tail swishing from side to side, it is a good sign that the animal is relaxed.

Feet: A happy elephant will bounce around on its feet and especially its front feet will sort of prance. It will swing its trunk.

It will bounce while striding.

Is it legal for elephants to be caught and put into Government zoos?

No it is illegal. The order has gone to all Zoos to remove their elephants. But some Zoos flout the law and the CZA, which should be confiscating them, is too ill manned and lazy to do anything.


What should I do when I see an elephant in a temple?

Don’t remain quiet. Protest to the pundits there. Do not give any donations. Use RTIs to ask the temple and the local Government why it is there when elephants have been banned in private use from 1972. Keep writing to the papers and social media like Facebook. Start a petition to remove the elephant. Collect money and offer to buy it if the temple is so greedy. File a Police complaint about its mistreatment and demand to see where it is rested and housed. Generally make such a nuisance of yourself that sooner or later the temple gives in.

How can I help dwindling bee population recover?

Bees play a crucial role in the ecosystem — they act as pollinators. The dwindling bee population is a serious threat to the environment as well as agriculture. The major reason why their numbers are declining is habitat loss. Here’s a list of things that we humans can do to save the bee population — Plant flowers, flowering bushes and tall flowering trees. Leave out sugar water near areas where bees might come. Stop using pesticides and insecticides. Do not allow people to destroy hives.

Is it alright to let my young children play with guinea pigs?

Guinea pigs are small and relatively easier to take care of, which make them great pets to teach your children about responsibilities and boundaries. However, Guinea pigs are delicate creatures, so ensure your children are supervised while playing with their pet Guinea pig. Teach your children how to carefully handle their pet with love and care, bring them their daily dose of fruits for vitamin C, cleaning up their cage, and other duties, so that your children and their pet bond together.

My guinea pig seems to have blood in his urine. What should I do?

If your guinea pig is peeing red coloured urine then it can by be a symptom of Uroliths or bladder stones. This can be a very serious ailment for your pet and very painful as well. Sometimes, if the stone are small, they can pass out on their own, but if they are big they can get struck in the urethra or cause irritation in the bladder. Sometimes these stones can cause a tear inside the bladder leading to serious complications. If you notice any symptoms, like blood in the urine, pain in the abdomen area, change in urination patterns, or not urinating at all, then immediately consult your vet. It is possible to avoid further complications and problems if the condition is caught early. Also, as preventive measures, give your Guinea pig plenty of water and a healthy and balanced diet to reduce chances of  Uroliths.

My guinea pig’s teeth fell out. Should I be concerned?

If it has happened for the first time it is not a major cause of concern. Guinea pigs have ‘open-rooted’ teeth which keep growing throughout their life because of wear and tear of the teeth enamel from the round plant-based diet. However, if the teeth are discoloured, or your Guinea pig is having difficulty consuming food, then you might have to hand feed him/her. Falling of teeth could indicate a lack of Vitamin C in your pet. But if the growing teeth seemed to be misaligned, or causing gum sores, or breaking the skin, consult your Vet.


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