You don’t often associate elephants with obesity.

Reading an article on BBC News this morning, I was surprised to find that elephants can be obese.

Obese elephants given slimming help

Authorities are on a drive to help the animals lose weight

Authorities in India are being presented with an massive task: managing the weight of obese elephants kept in temples.

In parts of India, elephants are kept in temples for religious reasons – taking part in ceremonies and festivals.

Efforts are on in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu to get these over-pampered tusked animals to slim down, officials have told the BBC.

Almost all the elephants kept in temples in the state have been found to be obese.

Accordingly, officials are temple officials are reconfiguring the diets of their temple elephants on the advice of veterinary surgeons.

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

Another elephant in the Kallazagar Temple weighs 700kg more than the optimum for its age, according to Ravindran, the “Mahout” – or custodian – of the 48-year-old female elephant -Madhuravalli.

But veterinary surgeons point out that obesity and captivity go hand in hand.

Elephants eat up to 200 different varieties of food in the jungle, including fruits, flowers, roots and branches, but in captivity their diets often lack variety.

The experts also point out that the elephants in the wilderness are never exposed to foods such as rice, millets, salt and jaggery (an unrefined sugar set into blocks).

Uphill trek

Wild elephants wander, trek uphill, cross streams and walk on a variety of terrain. They also compete with other wild animals for resources.

A senior forest veterinary officer in the state observed: “In captivity, elephants eat constantly, and that coupled with lack of exercise makes the animals obese.”

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