As a species, Asian elephants once numbered as many as one million. Today, there are just about 40,000 globally. The shocking decline in their population — much of it due to the high rate of captivity for Asian elephants — does not get as much attention as the plight of their African-elephant relatives (the number of living Asian elephants is just about 5% of their living African counterparts).
African elephants, of course, are also in an existential struggle — particularly because of poaching —but African elephants are not utilized for labor and tourist attractions the way Asian elephants are, and the secret behind Asian elephants’ docility in such instances is a brutal process known as “pajan.”
One nonprofit group, Save The Asian Elephants (STAE) — which is a Moving Giants “Elephant Champion” — is dedicated to freeing the Asian elephants in captivity, and preventing the abduction of more elephants.
As STAE notes on their website, as part of the process for capturing elephant calves, mothers are slaughtered and then “captured calves are isolated and then forced into a pen and tied with ropes to prevent them moving. They are deprived of water, food and sleep. Terrified, they are brutally, often fatally, beaten with rods, chains or bullhooks (a rod with sharp metal hooks at the striking end) and stabbed with knives and nails.” This is what the pajan process is, and, as STAE notes, it “is designed to break their spirits and brutalise them into submission.”
STAE has launched a petition, 1) asking India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to end the process of pajan; 2) the UK’s Prime Minister Theresa May to support India in these efforts; and 3) the Association of British Travel Agents “to remove elephant attractions from their itinerary in India and the rest of Asia.” As of this moment, that petition has amassed nearly 500,000 signatures. (You can sign it here.)