Elephants of Guruvayoor Devaswom should not be paraded for temple festivals elsewhere and the “dangerous practices” such as elephant races should be banned, suggested a panel headed by poet Sugathakumari

The Kerala State Wildlife Board had appointed a panel to study the living conditions of the elephants owned by the temple authorities. Guruvayoor Devaswom has 60 captive elephants, the highest number owned by single entity in the country.

The Sugathakumari panel consisting of wildlife experts, which drew up a 40-point recommendation, will discuss its suggestions with the Devaswom authorities on July 22. The panel was set up following a series of complaints that the animals were kept in unhygienic conditions and often ill-treated. Several elephant lovers had also criticised the board for failing to provide healthy living environment to the animals.

Flaying the practice of parading elephants in temple rituals, Ms. Sugathakumari told The Hindu that none of the Hindu scriptures prescribed the practice. It's cruel to parade elephants. It should be considered as the pompous display of wealth and a big business. Such practices should be discouraged, she said.

The Devaswom authorities informed the panel that the practice of offering elephants (Nadakkiruthal) to the deity will be discontinued. Only symbolic offering would be permitted in future, they informed.

The Sugathakumari panel suggested that the careless handling of animals and resultant injuries to them should be treated as serious offences and those responsible should be booked.

The elephants and those managing them should be monitored at the kraals through close circuit TV and a panel of wildlife experts should be put in charge of the animals. Mahouts should be allowed to continue with the selected elephants. The animals are kept in an area of 18.5 acre, which is inadequate. More space should be made available for the elephants, the panel recommended.

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