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Handling of Elephants in Captivity

June 11, 1988

I was happy to see so many letters in The Times (June 4) concerning the beating of an elephant at the San Diego Wild Animal Park.

In my younger days I spent five years in the Burmese jungle extracting teak and, at various times, had as many as 103 elephants in my charge. At the end of the working day, after their baths, the elephants forelegs were loosely fettered so that they could wander off into the jungle to feed themselves and, in this condition, could also breed normally.

The forest assistant always supervised the training and disciplining of the young animal. At this time the animal was often fettered and sometimes kept in a small stockade for a few days until the animal was accustomed to carrying a rider and obeying signals. But no beating took place.

There were a few times when a disobedient elephant was hit on the forehead by an angry rider, but the forest assistant learned to spot this even though ash has been rubbed over the wound to disguise it. The first time the rider was warned; the second time, he was dismissed.

I am only familiar with Indian elephants but these animals are good workers, trustworthy and reliable, except on the rare occasion when a male is in must.

L. PRIESACK

Los Angeles

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