In many parts of India, elephants are kept in temples for taking part in religious ceremonies and festivals. Many of these elephants are over-pampered and do not receive sufficient exercise, according to the Silobreaker
. This has led to many of them becoming over-weight, leading to health issues.
Authorities in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu have launched a campaign to reduce the obesity levels of the ceremonial elephants. This involves issuing new diet instructions, based on advice from veterinarians, and an exercise regime.
In the wild elephants consume a varied diet. In captivity, the diet can be very narrow and can include sugary foods. In the wild, elephants consume
around 330 pounds of plant matter each day. Also in the wild, elephants are required to navigate rough terrain and traverse long distances. These are conditions very different to the confines of the temple. It has been reported
before that elephants kept in zoos suffer with obesity and poor health.
The Indian elephant
(Elephas maximus indicus) is an endangered species. These elephants are typically smaller than African elephants. The largest elephants grow to 11 feet tall.
The extent of the problem is captured in a quotation from Pon Jayaraman, executive officer of the Madurai Meenakshi Amman, who told the BBC
about one elephant: "The female temple elephant - 15 year-old Parvathi - is overweight by 500kg and efforts are on to reduce it."
In a case, a different elephant, captive to the Kallazagar Temple weighs 700kg more than the optimum for its age.