NEW DELHI-Dozens of elephants used for tourist rides at one of India's most recognised forts are blind or suffering other ailments, a report said Tuesday, calling for the practice to end.

Nineteen elephants used to ferry visitors to Rajasthan's famous Amer Fort were blind or vision impaired while nine others had tuberculosis, found a report commissioned by the government's Animal Welfare Board of India.

Almost all the 102 elephants examined by government officials and the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) displayed some psychological distress or health troubles like bruised footpads.

Tens of thousands of tourists visit the Amer Fort, a medieval complex on a hilltop outside Jaipur, every year and many opt to enter its imposing gates on the back of an elephant.

But the government's animal welfare board, which sanctioned the study with PETA, said the captive elephants were unfit for safaris and such joy rides endangered both the elephants and tourists alike. "Shocking reports of blind and TB-infected elephants forced to haul illegal, backbreaking loads day in and day out are exactly why these rides must stop," PETA India's Nikunj Sharma said in a statement.

The report said elephant handlers often overloaded the elephants beyond limits considered safe.

 The tusks were missing on 47 beasts, raising suspicion the ivory was sold on illegal markets, it said.

The elephants are owned privately but registered with the government.

More than 100 were listed with authorities in 2017 but many more are brought from outside Rajasthan, India's western desert state, to meet demand during peak tourist season.

AFP

MARSEILLE

Must one be nattily dressed to play boules? Rules outlawing the wearing of jeans during the national championship in France have provoked an outcry from fans of the famed Gallic game.

Often played in parks, traditionally with a glass of wine or aniseed liquor in hand, boules or “petanque” is usually an informal affair in France that unites young and old from all social backgrounds. But as the national federation eyes recognition of the game as an Olympic sport, it has decided serious players need to smarten up and present a more dignified image in competitions.

“We are simply applying a rule that has existed since 1990,” a spokesperson from the national petanque federation, the FFPJP, told AFP on Tuesday amid signs of rebellion from amateurs across the country. Jeans are already banned at all stages of the national boules championship, but the dresscode was previously ignored during the qualifying stages. The federation is now insisting on non-denim trousers or smart shorts.

“Blue jeans are the most subject to the effects of fashion, of being badly maintained, ripped, unwashed or not very clean,” the federation official told AFP.

“For a long-time petanque was a leisure pursuit, everyone did as they wanted, but now it’s a high-level sport.”

“It’s a question of image. We feel we are being watched ahead of the 2024 Olympics (in Paris) and a federation that can’t get people to respect its rules doesn’t look good,” the official added.

The diktat looks set to be fiercely contested by the rebellious French.

An association of players has organised a jeans-only competition on May 1 in the southern city of Nimes to protest against the change.

Other players have been spreading an image online of the president of a club in Gy in eastern France who turned up to a competition dressed as a clown.