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Page last updated at 07:58 GMT, Friday, 16 January 2009

India army parade bans elephants

Elephant procession in India
Colourfully decorated elephants are used during festivals in India

India has broken a three-decade-long tradition by banning the use of elephants at its yearly military parade in the capital, Delhi.

Authorities decided to do away with the tradition of parading colourfully decorated elephants following protests from animal rights activists.

There have also been security concerns after a near stampede by two elephants at last year's parade.

Children feted for acts of bravery usually ride elephants at the parade.

Jeeps

Defence ministry spokesman D Mohanty told the BBC that "serious" security concerns had been raised after two elephants almost stampeded as they neared the dais where the president was sitting last year.

He added: "Besides, for four years now animal activists have demanded a ban on the use of elephants. These two reasons forced the government to decide against their use from this year."

Elephants for the parade were usually hired from private handlers for 2,000 rupees ($40) by the defence ministry.

Authorities say the children at the parade will now been taken on open military jeeps.

Elephants are commonly used in India for transporting cargo and during religious festivals.

There have been a number of occasions, particularly in the southern state of Kerala, where elephants have stampeded at festivals, causing fatalities.

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