A Teenager’s Fight for A Zoo Elephant

Shankar the African elephant is alone in the Delhi Zoo. Shankar had been brought to India twenty years ago as a diplomatic ‘gift’ from Africa. In between, Shankar had a female companion – Bombai, But Bombai reportedly died in 2005.

Delhi’s sixteen-year-old youth activist Nikita Dhawan is in a fight against the authorities to free Shankar, the elephant. She wants to free Shankar from the Zoological Park into a wildlife sanctuary that shelters other African elephants of its kind. The founder of the non-profit ‘Youth For Animals’ (YFA) Foundation, Nikita has filed public interest litigation for Shankar’s cause in the Delhi High Court. This was heard earlier this month. The next hearing is on March 9.

A petition by this youth group, demanding the timely transfer of Shankar states, “If Shankar’s solitary captivity does not end immediately, he will meet the same fate as Bombai who died in the zoo.”

According to Nikita, Shankar is chained for 17 hours a day and the elephant is displaying clear signs of distress. Shankar has no space to move around in the zoo property and is under duress. The zoo has now closed the viewing pathway to visitors since Shankar’s aggression could be a threat to the visitors. Shankar is in a state that needs immediate attention.

Shankar is the only African elephant in India, other than one in Mysore Zoo. He was gifted by the Zimbabwe President to the then president Dr Shankar Dayal Sharma in 1998. Since he was only months old when transferred to the country, Shankar is now 26.

“Indian Culture gives elevated status to elephants…. Yet, we do not take care of them,” Nikita

Dhawan told BBC. The plea to release Shankar is addressed to the director of the Delhi Zoo Dr Sonali Ghosh. Nikita says Dr Sonali Ghosh can set an example for the better future of all elephants in captivity in India by releasing Shankar.

-Poorna     Kisan

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