ALAPPUZHA: Tusker Ambalappuzha Vijayakrishnan, owned by the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), died at the Sree Krishna Swami temple premises here on Thursday morning. According to devaswom officials, the 51-year-old elephant had been suffering from various health issues for the past few days. Meanwhile, a group of elephant lovers have come out with the allegation that the muchloved jumbo underwent severe torture at the hands of its mahouts for several months.
Devaswom officials continuously paraded it in various temples of Kollam and Pathanamthitta districts, which caused further deterioration of its health, they said. Hours after the news broke, the group staged an agitation in front of the Devaswom office alleging that Vijayakrishnan died because it was ill-treated by its mahout s and devaswom authorities. Sally Varma, Animal Welfare Board of India’s nominee member for the captive elephant management committee in Alappuzha, said it was the lax attitude shown by the devaswom authorities that led to the elephant’s death.
“The devaswom allowed the elephant’s parading at Thevalakkara last month in spite of the severe injuries allegedly inflicted on its body by the mahout. Surprisingly, the devaswom veterinarian also issued a certificate claiming the tusker was fit to be paraded. After the issue was raised with forest officials, they intervened and put a stop to the parading. The elephant was shifted back, but it was probably too late,” she said. “It is high time the practice of keeping elephants captive is reassessed.
The habit of ignoring these animals’ welfare and using them to perform activities that are unnatural to them will hurt all of us in the long run,” she added. K Saji, Assistant Conservator of Forest and Wildlife, said the department had given all possible directions to save the jumbo’s life. “After the postmortem report arrives, we will decide if action has to be taken against anyone on the matter,” he said.
Meanwhile, TDB president N Vasu said a comprehensive investigation will be carried out into the death of the elephant. “We have decided to suspend two mahouts of the elephant. G Baiju, Deputy Commissioner (Haripad), TDB, has been temporarily relieved of his responsibilities. Further action will be taken based on the probe report,” he said.