COIMBATORE: A mahout and kavadi were arrested in the early hours of Monday for beating a captive elephant at the Thekkampatti elephant rejuvenation camp near Mettupalayam. The elephant is being monitored and is fine, according to veterinarians who have examined the animal.
Vinil Kumar (46), the mahout, and Siva Prasath (32), the kavadi, were arrested under Section 51 of the Wildlife Protection Act after hours of interrogation and were remanded in the Avinashi sub jail. Vinil who was employed by the Srivilliputhur Andal temple to care for the temple’s elephant, Jeymalyatha, was suspended on Sunday. Prasath was not directly engaged by the temple.
The duo were caught on camera thrashing the elephant tied to a tree by a visitor to the annual 48-day camp for captive elephants on Saturday evening. Officials of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments department as well as animal welfare NGOs had sought action against the two men as the video went viral on social media.
On Monday, Coimbatore forest veterinarian A Sugumar, who has been monitoring the health of Jeymalyatha, said that the animal is fine and has not sustained any external injuries. The duo had beaten the animal’s hind legs with a stick, despite the elephant trumpeting in pain and urinating in fear. They reportedly claimed that they beat the animal as it was refusing to follow their commands. Sugumar said that although the animal had been severely beaten, its thick skin had protected it from injury.
However, with the mahout and kavadi in custody, Jeyamalyatha has not been able to resume a full daily routine. Usually, the elephants at the camp are taken for a walk every morning and evening and are taken for a bath at an artificial shower setup along the river Bhavani. Jeymalyatha has remained tied to a tree since Sunday evening.
"Jeymalyatha is being cared for by Subramaniam, the assistant of the Tiruchendur temple elephant’s mahout. He has fed the animal some fodder and fruits. Subramaniam has assisted Vinil Kumar for the last three years while at the camp at Thekkampatti," said Sugumar.
Meanwhile, Senthil Velavan, joint commissioner of HR&CE department, Coimbatore said an awareness meeting was conducted for the mahouts and kavadis to instruct them to handle the elephants with care. It is notable that such an incident has occurred in the 13th year of the camp despite regular awareness efforts.
"We have asked them to inform the veterinarians if they notice any unusual behaviour among the elephants during the camp. We have also banned the entry of visitors and press persons till the issue settles down," he said.
The official said that the HR&CE commissioner had issued an order forming an expert committee of five experienced veterinarians to examine the 26 animals from Tamil Nadu and Puducherry at the camp and ensure all of them are fine.
"We will produce a report in two days," he said.