THRISSUR: Amid rising demand for elephant parades, festival organisers in Kerala are running from pillar to post for permission to transport captive elephants across state borders. The latest wildlife laws do have a provision for interstate transportation of captive elephants, but the related guidelines are yet to be issued.
Under the circumstances, PETA India is set to take forward the success of Irinjadapilly Raman -- the country’s first robotic elephant. Towards that end, the animal rights body has already signed agreements with eight temples. Four of those temples are in Kerala while three are in Tamil Nadu and one in Karnataka. The Mudikkannur Sree Krishna Temple in Thrissur district has also asked for a mechanical elephant.
PETA India had supported the Irinjadapilly Sree Krishna Temple committee in Thrissur in launching the robotic elephant on February 27, 2022. The temple committee is now offering the robotic elephant to festival organisers across Kerala for a nominal rent.
“The response from festival committees has been positive, and the robotic elephant has been booked fully for this festival season,” Rajkumar Namboothiri, priest of Irinjadapilly temple, told TNIE.
Irinjadapilly Raman -- modelled on celebrity tusker Thechikottukavu Ramachandran -- stands 11 feet high and was made using an iron frame and rubber coating at a cost of Rs 5 lakh.
Its trunk, tail and ears can be moved using a lever installed on the structure. This season, Irinjadapilly Raman was paraded for ‘Kodakara Shashti’, one of the major local festivals in Thrissur district. Several similar festivals are going to embrace the mechanical elephant, as it is deemed financially viable and risk-free.
With the festival season set to peak in the coming months, reports have already started emerging of elephants running amok and attacking mahouts and the general public amid parades. On Sunday, a tusker attacked its mahout after the parade during the Kottiyattumukku Pooram festival at Mangadu.
Currently, the state has only about 400 captive elephants, of which only half the number are available for parade. That makes the situation tough for elephants, with constant and tiring parades and transportation from one festival venue to another.
PETA India director of advocacy Kushboo Gupta said, “We have been getting great responses from temples and churches across Kerala on the mechanical elephant. Since its launch, Irinjadapilly Raman has been going places without a rest which itself indicates the kind of torture the real captive elephants suffer during the peak festival days.”
She added the robotic model was in demand in other states too as many temples have come forward with the pledge not to torture elephants for religious activities.
PETA India expects to launch two more mechanical elephants in December. They will be given to temples in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
Chalakudy-based Four Hearts, a team of four youngsters, had developed the mechanical elephant which has now gained attention across the country and overseas.
Thara, Kerala’s oldest captive elephant, dies
Thara, approximately 90 as claimed by Guruvayur Devaswom, considered as the oldest living captive elephant in Kerala after Dakshayani belonging to the TDB, died at the Punnathoor elephant shelter on Tuesday. The female elephant was offered to Guruvayur temple on May 9, 1957, by K Damodaran, owner of Kamala Circus.
The elephant had been suffering from age-related ailments and its health had been deteriorating for the past three years.
With the support of devotees, the devaswom had made special arrangements to install supporting structures on both sides of the elephant to prevent it from falling. For the past several years, it continued in the same spot in the shelter as walking was difficult at such an age.
“The elephant served Guruvayoorappan with utmost devotion and never created any problems. While carrying the idol for daily Sheeveli, Thara had always been calm and quiet,” said a devaswom official.