Recently we painfully witnessed another untimely death of one of India’s elephants. Her name was Lakshmi. After being hired by a temple for a ceremony, an exhausted Lakshmi was being forced to walk at night on the roads to her next gig, when a several-ton truck crashed into her. We will never know the full extent of her injuries, but after that fateful collision, Lakshmi never stood on her feet again. She fought hard, but her body could not overcome the brutal trauma from being forcefully struck. Her death did not come quickly, instead she faded away over several days, even with the aid of expert veterinary care.
Her passing may at first appear as a rare and unfortunate accident. Sadly, her encounter with a truck was not unusual. Such incidents have happened countless times, killing and maiming many jumbos every year. Elephants, although very large, are very difficult to see because of their grey coloring. When it gets dark and hazy at night, they can become virtually invisible. It is easy to get angry with the driver, but they can be following all of the laws of the road and still plough into an elephant. The problem is, elephant owners should not be allowed to walk elephants on the roads. Banning elephants from being transported on foot is essential if we want to prevent further calamities like the one that happened with Lakshmi.
Other cities like Delhi and Mumbai recognized that elephants should not be trying to share the road with a multitude of automobiles, and these cities took action to remove all elephants from the city limits. This has completely eliminated these hazardous encounters. Motorized Vehicles have reflectors, horns, mirrors and a variety of other features to ensure safety. Pachyderms, which are wild animals, do not have any of these ‘features.’ Therefore, they are virtually ‘sitting ducks’ on India’s roadways.
Asian Elephants are an endangered species and their best hope for their survival is within India’s borders. The world is waking up to the reality that if more isn’t done to protect them, they will all disappear. Every individual elephant counts in saving these unique and amazing animals. Therefore, every one lost on the road is more than a tragedy. For the species, it’s catastrophic. An easy action that can be taken is to protect these animals and prevent more victims is to require elephant owners to transport elephants properly in a secure vehicle, and not permitting elephant owners to walk them on the roads. This will help elephants and drivers alike. Major cities have taken this action, it is time for the rest of India to follow their lead.
Lakshmi would still be alive today if she was not being forced to walk on the road.
The reality is everyday there are hundreds of elephants like Lakshmi laboring on the streets. There are millions of vehicles on the roads, and it would be good policy to acknowledge the streets are no place for wild and endangered animals. It is time that action be taken to prevent other elephants from suffering a similar fate as Lakshmi by keeping them from being forced to walk on these dangerous roads.