The Wildlife Trust of India introduced the reflectors this week to help drivers spot the working jumbos at night in the Indian capital, New Delhi.

   

"The butt-reflector, roped to the howdah (seat), costs just 100 rupees ($2) and is the simplest way to protect them," said Trust Programme Director Aniruddha Mookerjee.

 

Long walks

   

Working elephants are often used at weddings, festivals and by the tourist industry and often have to walk long distances along the city's chaotic, congested roads.

 

"You can't have elephants being hit by trucks and cars."

-- Wildlife Trust of India official

The Trust took the safety initiative after a jumbo was badly hurt by a speeding truck last December. The elephant was put down after veterinarians said it could not recover.

   

"You could see tears streaming from its eyes as it lay in pain. You can't have elephants being hit by cars and trucks," Mookerjee said, adding the Trust planned to introduce the reflectors for elephants in other cities as well.

 

Retirement benefits

 

In another decision, the southern Indian state of Kerala on Thursday decided to extend full retirement benefits at 65 for elephants employed by the state government.

 

Kerala state Forest Minister K.Sudhakaran told the provincial assembly, "We are taking a serious note of growing cruelty towards captive elephants and their violent reaction to their human captors.”

  

He added that the retired elephants would receive a good "menu, healthcare and living conditions” as well as health check-ups.

 

The retirement policy will not apply to elephants working in private enterprises such as circuses, which have some of the worst conditions.

  

An estimated 33,000 elephants are left in India - a quarter of their 19th-century population - and many are put to work in construction, logging, security patrols and in other businesses.