PALAKKAD: A Thrissur pooram without caparisoned elephants! This could not be passed off as a figment of imagination in a matter of a few decades when captive elephants could become history. For as many as 35 to 40 captive elephants are meeting their end annually.
The number of captive elephants have come down from 750 in early 2000 to 470 this year, said state general secretary of the Kerala Elephant Owners Federation (KEOF) P Shashikumar at its seventh state conference.
Captive elephants could not be transported from other states and the Forest Department here was not allowed to catch them from forests either.
Referring to the increasing number wild elephants stalking human habitats, State president K B Ganesh Kumar wanted the Forests Department to capture elephants from the wild and be handed over to temples. “There were 3,000 wild elephants in 2005, 8,800 in 2012. This could have reached 10,000 by now. They should be caught and handed over to temple committees or owners so that traditions and customs do not fade into oblivion,” said Ganesh Kumar.
He said Guruvayur Devaswom should build a shelter for captive elephants under it and look after them more humanely. The proposal for an Elephant Welfare Trust was a welcome move but it should not be manned by persons who have nothing to do with elephants.
State vice-president Chandrachoodan Pillai pointed out that he received 15 complaints of elephant harassments which were referred to by the Punalur Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), of which most of them were frivolous.
Ganesh Kumar also referred to the anonymous letters he used to receive on a daily basis as a Forest Minister. The deluge of complaints came down to a trickle when it was insisted that the complainant should come and lodge it in person. Shashikumar said that based on the findings of the Mahesh Rangarajan Committee, ‘ezhunellippu’ using captive elephants were sought to be banned four years ago. But with the timely intervention by the Federation, the then Union Minister Jairam Ramesh helped it to continue. The brutality on elephants were quite often exaggerated and presented before the committee by vested interests, he said.
Ganesh Kumar came down heavily on the officials of the Forest Department who suggested that the 1,800 elephant tusks in its possession should be put on fire as was done in Gabon in Central Africa.
“Such statements stemmed out of ignorance. Instead, the setting up of a museum to showcase the tusks and charging a small fee from visitors, could help the department mobilize resources which could be used for the welfare of these pachyderms.”
Another wild elephant calf which was weak was sought to be driven back to the forests. It is common knowledge that once a baby drops out of the herd, they will not be accepted back. The baby had eaten plastic mixed with garbage and had fallen ill. It was treated and is now recuperating at Konni. “I had set aside ` 3 crore for setting up a super specialty hospital for treating elephants. Paravur MLA V D Satheeshan had offered land. But the project did not take off as he demitted office,” the former Forest Minister said.
Chandrachoodan said the Federation had intervened and seen to it that the ban on elephant safaris was lifted after the incident involving the death of a Gujarati tourist as it was prevalent all over the world.