Animals Video

By Iain Watts


A wildlife photographer has vowed never to return to India after allegedly witnessing the shocking abuse of elephants during a trip to a wildlife reserve.

Snapper Norman Watson, 47, claimed he was horrified to see guides whipping the gentle giants with 5ft bamboo canes and beating them, leaving them ‘screaming in agony’.

Pic by Norman Watson/Mercury Press

He also claims he spotted emaciated baby elephants chained to trees and in cages during the working holiday to Bandhavgarh – one of India’s most popular national parks, known for its tigers – to photograph the big cats.

Norman, from Aberdeen, said: “I felt so much anger, there were five people in the group and they witnessed it all, feeling the same as I do.

“We were shocked.

“The screams from the elephants when they were whipped put a shiver down my spine.

“They were in so much distress they were weeing themselves – while we were about 100 metres away, screaming for this to stop.”

Pic by Norman Watson/Mercury Press

Norman visited the Bandhavgarh nature reserve in April this year to photograph wild tigers but felt compelled to share the elephant abuse he witnessed as he could not believe it was happening in an area popular with animal lovers.

He claims the guides, known as mahouts, repeatedly hit the elephants and whipped them with bamboo as they rode them – sometimes up to six people on an elephant at a time – and saw emaciated babies left chained up and in cages.

The irony the guides abusing the elephants were responsible for leading the photographers to photograph the tigers to help preserve them was not lost on Norman, whose Facebook post has since gone viral on social media.

Pic by Norman Watson/Mercury Press

Norman said: “They should be banned from keeping any kind of animal and certainly not elephants, given other roles in the reserve that doesn’t cause animal abuse.

“Elephants shouldn’t be taken from the wild or ridden by people. They should be given protection throughout Asia.

“During one of the worst incidents we witnessed, we heard the elephant in distress really trumpeting.

“There were two young elephants, about five years old, with their legs chained so close together they were actually hopping while trying to get away from a mahout beating them with a bamboo pole.

Pic by Norman Watson/Mercury Press

“It escalated to one mahout pulling the elephants over with their tails while the other had a sharp hook over its ear.

“They rolled it onto its side and beat it for about 10 minutes, only stopping because he was exhausted swinging the bamboo pole.”

Norman, who has travelled the world taking animal photos, said India was an otherwise great place to visit but he would not return to Bandhavgarh until the abuse stopped.

He said: “India was a great place, friendly people but I’ll not return to Bandhavgarh until this abuse has stopped.

“Only people power can change wildlife abuse and animal cruelty!”