Uncomfortable and overcrowded shelters with no proper maintenance, lack of genuine guidelines and safety features, young mahouts who are addicted to liquor and absence of experienced staff… These are some of the regular scenes at the Punnathur Elephant Sanctuary, where the Guruvayur temple authorities houses the captive elephants.
As many as 64 elephants are languishing in unhygienic conditions prevailing in the sanctuary, of which at least 5 elephants are in a serious condition owing to alleged cruelty by mahouts.
Arjun, one of the youngest tuskers at the sanctuary, has been fighting for life after being brutally tortured by his mahout.
The injury on his foreleg has worsened and, according to the doctors, chances of recovery is remote because the jumbo’s bones have become fragile, indicating signs of osteoporosis.
“Most of the staff members at the sanctuary and mahouts are unskilled and addicted to alcohol.
So, they torture the elephants indiscriminately,” said Dr Avanapparambu Maheswaran Namboodiripad, the veterinarian in charge of the tuskers’ medical care.
Though the Devaswom authorities had attempted to take action against the erring mahouts, they had to keep quiet owing to political pressure.
A team of doctors under the guidance of Maheswaran Namboothiripad, including Dr T C R Nambiar, Dr Giridas and Dr T S Rajeev, are camping at the sanctuary to treat the ailing Arjun.
The mahouts believe that a tortured elephant can be coerced into submission. The animal’s plight does not end with the ‘initiation’.
Elephant- keepers beat the animals at the slightest sign of disobedience. They are typically denied of food and water.Temple officials turn a blind eye to the cruel treatment, the doctors said.
Since the contractor has not been doing his work despite constant warnings from the authorities, the waste dumping system inside the sanctuary has collapsed.