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Bengal elephants to receive pension

Elephants of the West Bengal forest department will, henceforth, be eligible for pension benefits.

The benefits, to be provided on attaining superannuation at age 65, comprise good food, shelter and health care facilities.

About 30 elephants stationed in Jaldapara, Gorumara and other north Bengal forests have been shortlisted for the scheme. As a first step, the forest department will introduce service books for the pachyderms in which relevant data like age, behaviour patterns, areas of specialisation and records of meritorious services will be noted.

The department employs these trained animals -- kunkis -- mainly for chasing, trapping and capturing wild elephants. They are also used to scare away other animals which might threaten human lives or property.

Records show that most 'staff' elephants die while in service. At present, two elephants have reached retirement age. The pension scheme will see to it they enjoy a quiet life without any assignments, unlike in the past when they were engaged in light work or sold off to circus troupes.


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