CHENNAI: The 12-year-old female elephant Deivanai, which has a long history of attacking her caretakers and even killed a mahout in Madurai earlier this year, will be on her way back to Assam soon. The Tamil Nadu forest department took the decision as the lease period of the elephant had expired in 2017.
This is the first instance where Tamil Nadu would be sending back an elephant to its native state and would set a precedent for other illegally held jumbos to be moved out.
The Madurai forest division has confirmed the decision in an RTI reply sent in response to a query raised by animal rights activist Antony Clement Rubin. On May 24, Deivanai had trampled to death her assistant mahout S Kalidasan (32) at Subramaniya Swami Temple in Tiruparankundram following which she was shifted to the Elephant Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre at MR Palayam in Trichy.
At MR Palayam centre, on July 17 this month, Deivanai threw 24-year-old assistant mahout Charan when he was bathing her. The severely injured mahout is reportedly taking treatment for spine injuries. Before killing Kalidasan, she injured two of her earlier mahouts in the past, which was substantiated by the forest department in the RTI reply.
Trichy district forest officer (DFO) D Sujatha confirmed to The New Indian Express that the department has taken a decision to send back Deivanai to Assam. "The process is on. We are coordinating with the authorities in Assam. Physically, the elephant is fit to be transported."
Antony Clement Rubin welcomed the decision of the forest department, but raised questions over the functioning of various District Captive Elephants Monitoring Committees, including that of Madurai that failed to discharge its duties. "Deivanai should not have been allowed to be held in illegal possession even after the expiry of the lease period. Had the bad temper of the elephant been monitored properly, Kalidasan's death would have been avoided."
Meanwhile, Deepak Nambiar of Elephas Maximus Indicus Trust, who worked on the Deivanai case, said she is one of many elephants that are being held illegally without any proper documents.
"There are several unanswered questions in Deivanai's case. As per section 4(2) of Declaration of Wildlife Stock Rules, 2003, no person shall, after commencement of this Act, acquire, receive, keep in his control, custody, or possession, sell, offer for sale or otherwise transfer or transport any animal specified in Schedule I or Part II of Schedule II except with the previous permission in writing of the Chief Wildlife Warden or the authorised officer. How was she acquired in the year 2014 when the rule was over a decade old?" he asked.
Nambiar went on to add, "The ownership papers of Deivanai are in the name of Sri Lila Bora, Golaghat District in Assam, for an elephant named Prerona. There is a letter dated March 10, 2014 from the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF), Chennai, to the H R & EC E, stating that the PCCF of Assam has given permission to send the 6 year old Prerona to Subramaniyaswamy Thirukovil, Thirupparang Kundaram, Madurai for a period of three years. Why is she still in the temple? Have the PCCFs of Assam and Tamil Nadu committed gross negligence of duty by allowing the temple to retain the elephant?"
The New Indian Express in November last year wrote an article on another elephant Joymala alias Jeymalyatha. The 33-year-old female elephant from Assam is allegedly being held in illegal custody by a temple at Srivilliputhur for years without any valid documents. She was brought to Tamil Nadu on a temporary lease around 2008 and never sent back. Currently, she is in the Natchiyar temple in Srivilliputhur while the owner is in Assam.
According to the ownership certificate of Joymala, a copy of which is available with The New Indian Express, the owner of the elephant is Girin Moran, a resident of Tinuskia district in Assam. He claimed the elephant was kept in Kakapathar in Assam.