The magnificent Amber fort in Jaipur, also known as Amer Fort, is at the top of every visitor’s list, with its fusion of Indian and Mughal styles of architecture and gorgeous views, overlooking Lake Maota. Throughout the fort there are a variety of stairways, courtyards, gateways, gardens and balconies to explore, all adorned with intricate colourful murals and designs for you to marvel at.
To get to this enchanting fort is a kilometre-long path up a steep hill, which is a tough climb and there are hard cobbled stones. Two options to go up are walking up for free or taking a 4WD Jeep to the top and back for ₹450 up to five passengers), including a one-hour wait time.
I witnessed the cruel treatment of these elephants firsthand myself and it broke my heart to see some of them injured, with wounds on their body from where the mahout had clearly whipped them. These photos are ones I took myself for the purpose of writing this piece.
What’s even more heartbreaking is knowing that these elephants have endured a nightmare that started when they were young and torn away from their mothers, and this will not end till they are too old to be useful to the mahouts as an income.
The reality behind the elephant you choose to ride up to the fort (or any elephant used for a ride across the world) is that as soon as they are separated from their mothers, “training” begins immediately. The baby elephants are tied down and beaten with bullhooks and other instruments designed to inflict pain, until their spirits are broken and they’re willing to obey their trainers in order to avoid being hurt.
When not working, they are kept in awful conditions, often with tight chains that restrict their movement. They are not fed adequately, and often suffer from trauma.
Part of the challenge is convincing the elephant owners to seek a different way to make an income to enable them to maintain their livelihoods. Perhaps cycle rickshaws or bicycles may be a better option, and a more sustainable way to transport tourists up to the fort.
If you spot this happening, please try and educate those who are paying to go on these rides or report this on Born Free Foundation’s ‘Raise the Red Flag.’