'Gods in Shackles': Kerala lost 16 captive elephants so far in 2019

Soon, captive elephants will become a thing of the past for people in the state as such is the speed at which healthy jumbos meet with an untimely death.
A visual of a temple elephant in Kerala. (Photo | EPS)
A visual of a temple elephant in Kerala. (Photo | EPS)

THRISSUR: Despite government’s measures to promote documentaries like ‘Gods in Shackles’ and attempts to bring about regulations to protect captive elephants, the state has lost 16 jumbos so far this year, averaging two jumbos per month. 

Soon, captive elephants will become a thing of the past for people in the state as such is the speed at which healthy jumbos meet with an untimely death. The latest victim is Nandilath Arjunan, who died at the age of 58. Animal activists alleged the jumbo was tethered without proper shelter, which rendered it sick. 

Other elephants that died this year include Dakshayani, 89, Akkavila Kannan, 17, Thottekkattu Karthikeyan, 30, Kizhanchery Sankarankutty, 50, Priya, 35, Balaraman, 68, Veenadu Vinayakan, 32, Sreevijayam Murugan, 41, Balussery India, 46, Cheruplassery Parthan, 42, Thiruppuraickal Rajendran, 52, Mangalamkunnu Ganapathy, 69, Aralam Sivan, 22, Mullathu Kailas, 32, and Mukkomban Ganapathy, 56.

Of the 16, more than half died very young compared to the life expectancy of elephants. It is alleged that neglect in providing proper veterinary care and lack of enforcement of rules led to their deaths. The Forest Department had come out with some amendments to Kerala Captive Elephants (Management and Maintenance) Rule 2012, which is yet to be implemented. 

A visual of a temple elephant in Kerala. (Photo | A Sanesh, EPS)
A visual of a temple elephant in Kerala. (Photo | A Sanesh, EPS)

“Updated rules are more stringent and will stop the torture of captive jumbos. As per the amendments, retirement age for captive jumbos has been set at 65 years and parading of elephants has been restricted from 6 am to 11 am and 4 pm to 8 pm,” said V K Venkitachalam, chairman of Heritage Animal Task Force.

The amendment also suggests banning elephants that run amok, causing injuries, death, or even damage to property, for a period not less than six months. HATF sought a discussion on the proposed amendments in the assembly along with effective and speedy implementation of the same. Venkitachalam also said district-level elephant task force, which monitors management of captive elephants had not met for the past two years. 

Meanwhile, amidst the untimely death of pachyderms, Kerala Elephant Owners’ Federation opposed the proposed amendments. “Fresh rules and regulations affect the parading of elephants for festivals, which is an inevitable part of ceremonies in various religions. Some NGOs have even tried to hijack traditional festivals of Kerala through petitions in the court, but haven’t succeeded. Now, they have taken some forest officers on their side and have proposed these amendments,” said P Sasikumar, general secretary of the federation.

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