After learning of a high prevalence of tuberculosis (TB) – which is very contagious and transmissible from elephants to humans – among elephants forced to give rides at Amber Fort near Jaipur, India, PETA is issuing a travel advisory urging tourists not to make any contact with the animals, to stay away from the area, and to avoid all elephant rides. PETA India has also sent a letter calling on India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to direct the Rajasthan government to quarantine the infected elephants, provide them with urgent veterinary care, and screen all untested elephants forced to interact with the public for TB immediately.

The travel advisory follows a report that reveals that in addition to the 10 elephants working at Amber Fort who tested positive for TB, many were found to be more than 50 years old and 19 were observed to be visually impaired, endangering both themselves and the public. All were found to be suffering from various foot problems, including overgrown toenails and bruised footpads, and many displayed stereotypical behaviour patterns indicating psychological distress, such as repetitive swaying and head-bobbing. Additionally, the tusks of 47 elephants appeared to have been cut, in violation of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. And all the 102 “working” elephants inspected were seen carrying loads heavier than the legal maximum of 200 kilograms.

“Explosive reports of blind, contagious elephants who are forced to carry backbreaking loads day in and day out are exactly why these rides must stop,” says PETA spokesperson Emily Rice. “PETA’s urgent travel advisory is meant to protect both travellers and the sick, suffering elephants who are being denied much-needed veterinary care, putting everyone at risk.”