A Different Approach Towards Elephant Training: Tiwari, U.P.1 Mclean Andrew2 1. B.V.Sc.&A.H, Institute of Agriculture and Animal Sciences, Tribhuvan University 2. PhD. Chairman of Directors, The HELP foundations ltd. 1. Introduction :Elephants form a large part of Nepalese economy, yet the death and injury rate as a result oftraditional training is unacceptably high. These giant animals can be as much as 3.5 metres tall(over 11 feet) and weigh 3.5 tonnes. Elephants are extremely intelligent animals that displaycomplex behaviors and have a very high capacity for learning. Therefore, it is important toincorporate challenging and extensive training sessions when managing them. Trainingenhances the elephants‟ well being by providing both physical and mental stimulation. It is themost important component of a successful elephant management program. Training also aidsand enhances routine management and care by helping the animals become relaxed with criticalaspects of management such as medical procedures. One of the most important benefits of a solidtraining program is that it provides safety for the animals and for the staff who care for them on adaily basis. They have excellent memories, and when the males come into season (called„musth), testosterone levels soar to 20 times normal. And they dont forget their torment!1.1 Traditional Method Of Elephant Training :Traditionally on reaching two years of age, young elephants are separated from its mother forfew days. It cries and laments in agony of separation and becomes desperate. Two men each ontwo elephants with fifth men on the distressed calf go for long rides- the calf is made to run, goup, come down, jump and do all sorts of activities as commanded by the rider. When the calf istired and desperate, then the real training starts with the mahout teaching the language with thehelp of bamboo sticks hurting the back of the ears and shoulders. In the process the babyelephant gets angry and tries to throw away the rider. Sometimes the trainer gets hurt, ends upwith broken neck and fractured limbs. The trainee elephant is tethered in between the two otherelephants with the help of strong rope while it learns to respond to the basic commands ofmoving forwards, backwards, to the left and right, sitting, standing, stopping and grabbing. Aftertwo weeks the elephant learns to be ridden by the trainer without assistance of other elephants.Traditionally it was believed that success in training comes from dominance hence the animalsare subjected to repeated inescapable pain, they are tethered, imprisoned or trapped, (punishmentwith the ankus whilst ridden falls into this category) they learn that they do not have control overtheir environment.1.2 Positive Learning Method :In this training method, the trainer avoids inflicting any pain or arousing any fear to the elephant.Training elephant in this way makes the training sessions a pleasant experience for both thetrainers and the elephant. The other benefit are fast learning- in this way elephants learn thetasks faster than with any other training method- as well as increased reliability and safety ofelephants at work. Elephant trained in this way will have less behavior problem and will be moreobedient. This method is more humane then the traditional training and it will avoid the risks ofmahouts being killed by the elephants. 2. Objectives
To provide resources and expertise to enable humane, evidence-based training methods for captive elephants. To encourage ethical, sustainable relationships between elephants and humans by providing educational programmes on the biological needs of elephants. To improve the safety of elephants trainers and handlers by sharing knowledge of evidence based training methods. To enhance the capacity of agencies and authorities to manage elephants in a way that recognises their unique ethological and cognitive needs and capabilities. Providing information on sustainable methods of elephant training. 3. Materials and Methods3.1 Study Site: The study was conducted during the summer season in the buffer zone area of the Chitwan National Park, within the vicinity of Sauraha, located in the Chitwan District of Nepal.3.2 Study Population :Five baby male elephants above two and below nine were selected, whose names were Lal Gaj,Himal Gaj, Nepal Gaj, Ram and laxman3.3 Training sessionsEach session was conducted for 10 minutes with each elephants twice in the morning and twicein the evening.3.4 Principle Used :Combination of two scientific approaches was used to train the animal 1. Positive reinforcement (rewarding the Elephant for Correct action) and 2. Pressure release (guiding the elephant with as little force as possible and releasing the pressure immediately when the elephant performs the correct action). As soon as the elephant performs the right action, it should be rewarded with kuchis – food packages for elephants.One of the benefits of positive learning method is that it promotes elephants willingness to cooperate with people.3.5 Procedure3.5.1 Go forward
The Command used was “Agat” and light Pressure was applied behind the ear of elephant, Thisiswhere mahouts use their toes for forward responses. The principle was any action on their partthat caused the pressures to go away, the animal repeats the reaction that worked. Elephant learnsthat tactile vibrations behind its ears disappear when it goes forward, it learns to go forward eachtime these stimuli occur, and thus the animal feels secure in the implicit knowledge that it has thecontrol to diminish its irritations. Security is the antithesis of aggression. WE stopped thepressures when the animal gave the correct response. Food was used for motivation. Theprinciple was if the animal learns that a certain reaction causes the delivery of food, it will repeatthat action. When the animal performs the task that was given to it it was caressed by giving thecommand “Syabash” and rubbing hand over its head, they were not patted.3.5.2 Pick up things :Here the task was broken down into related steps, where each step leads to the next and isrewarded and consolidated by repetitions. The command used was “utha”. The elephant wasrewarded with a morsel of its favourite food for sniffing near the stick with its trunk which lieson the ground, and when this act was repeated by the elephant, the task was now modified to thenext step, that is, now the elephant was rewarded only for touching the stick and so forth. By thistime the elephant was very keen on interacting with the coin and soon was rewarded only forpicking it up. Then it was rewarded each time the stick was brought closer to the us. Thissuccessive process of approximating toward a goal is called shaping, which is a vital tool intraining.3.5.3 Sit Down and SleepPressure was applied underneath of fore limb at the joining point of scapula and humerus.Pressure was released first time when it just bent its knees and rewarded with food. The task wasthen modified to next step that is it has to bent its knees more to sit and then finaly sleep. Thecommand used to make animal sit was “Baith” and to sleep was “Sut”.3.5.4 Go backThe command used to make the animal go back was “Pachu Hat”. Pressure was applied with astick in front of forelimb. 3.5.5. Making trunk calmThe trunk was scrubed and the elephant was awarded for letting the trunk relaxed and becomingcalm.4. Results and Discussion :1. Lal Gaj was the one who progressed alot. It started obeying all the commands that was givento him. We didn‟t needed to apply any pressure, it was habituated to obey the commands.
2. Laxman was the one which didn‟t improved to what was expected. The reason was Binod theMahout was interested to work with Ram, the twin brother of Laxman, as Ram was very Calmand Laxman was the aggressor. The training period was just 20 days, and even in that period wedidn‟t got much time to work with him.3. Ram was very comfortable to move forward and backward just by hearing the command. Hewas best of all in picking up and lifting the stick with trunk very easily. Still he had someproblems with sitting. Even at the end of training session we had to apply pressure to make himsit down.4. Himal gaj was best in allowing the mahout to ride on it. We succeeded in making him moveforward and backward but he is still not comfortable picking up the sticks, not even grabbing it.5. Nepal gaj was the one who allowed to scrub the trunk and still was very calm 4. ConclusionUsing pressure-release and food morsels to motivate, reward and shape desirable responses andthen installing voice commands by association was the basis of the training system. With manyrepetitions the elephant learnt to do what was asked of it by force of habit. Animals were happyand secure as a result of an accumulation of solid habits as these give the important benefits ofsecurity, controllability and predictability. Don‟t ever think that this method takes long time,because once begun, results come surprisingly quickly because the elephant is motivated – he ison your side. You might say he is now a willing partner.References :Mclean, Andrew.,The Plight of Working Elephant, Horses and People, Pg.35Desmond, T., Laule, G. 1991. Protected contact elephant training. Proceedings of the AmericanAssociation of Zoological Parks and Aquariums Annual Conference, 606-613. San Diego, CA.Kirkwood,J., Kichenside, C., James, W. 1989. Training zoo animals. Proceedings of Animal TrainingSymposium: A Review and Commentary on Current Practices, 93-99. Universities Federation forAnimal Welfare, Cambridge, UK.Krieger, K. 1989. The lighter side of training. Proceedings of the International Marine AnimalTrainers Association Annual Conference, 138-142. Amsterdam, The Netherlands.