Elephants In India Are Getting Fat. No, Really.

  @MayaErgas on September 17 2012 2:59 PM
elephant
An elephant lies on the ground in the Jaldhapara wildlife sanctuary, about 140 km (87 miles) north from the northeastern Indian city of Siliguri November 6, 2007. A troupe of Indian elephants has been trained to perform elaborate death scenes as part of plays to highlight the conditions of other elephants in the wild. Reuters

Question: How do you put an elephant in the refrigerator?

Answer: Open the door, put the elephant in, close the door.

Joking aside, you may need a slightly larger-than-normal fridge if you're looking to store an Indian elephant. India's sacred temple elephants in the Tamil Nadu region in the south of India are more than 1000 pounds (about 500 kg) overweight, due to lack of exercise and improper diet, the Telegraph reported.

"The female temple elephant -- 15 year-old Parvathi -- is overweight by 500kg (80 stone) and efforts are on to reduce it," Pon Jayaraman, executive officer of the Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple told the BBC Tamil service.

The endangered species are often kept chained to the gates of Hindu temples, stunting any opportunity for exercise, and are fed a steady diet of rice and sweets by pilgrims who believe feeding them will bring blessings to them and their family and ward off evil, the Telegraph said.

An elephant's natural diet is bamboo, grass, and fruits. Their captive diets are also very much lacking in variety, the BBC said; in the wild elephants eat over 200 varieties of food, and are not exposed to unrefined sugars.

Efforts are now underway to help the elephants slim down, although it's unclear if anything will be done about the conditions in which the elephants live. The elephants are often kept confined in the temples, without space to roam freely, as they were meant, animal rights activists often point out.

On a more serious note, Asian elephants are an endangered species.

According to the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology’s Animal Diversity Web, there are between 28,000 and 42,000 wild elephants remaining in Asia.

“Asian elephants have a long history of being hunted by people, originally for food, later for domestic stock and ivory,” the university stated.

“Poaching for ivory continues to devastate wild populations. They also suffer due to habitat loss caused by agriculture and deforestation. Centuries ago they disappeared from southwestern Asia and most of China.”

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