The Kerala Forest Department is planning to set up Kerala State Elephant Welfare Board for the well-being of elephants and mahouts.
The department has begun discussions with stakeholders to draw up the structure for the board and its guidelines.
This will be the first of its kind board for an animal species in the State.
According to the draft proposal, the welfare board will collect Rs.10,000 as annual contribution for an animal from its owners. Each mahout will have to contribute Rs.100 an year. Festival committees will also be asked to chip in with contributions for parading the animals for festivals. The share of the committee will be to the tune of Rs.200 for every animal paraded in the festival, said a note circulated by the department.
Going by the initial estimates, the board would have a corpus of Rs.1.45 crore, which could be utilised for the benefit of the animals and its managers. According to the Forest Department estimate, there are around 500 captive elephants in the State and 1500 mahouts. On an average, an elephant would be paraded in as many as 80 festivals in the State, according to the department sources.
The number of captive elephants in the State is depleting and around 25 elephants die every year due to ailments. The State also lacks proper medical care and support for the animals, says the department. Elephant breeding is one way to stabilise the population of the pachyderms. Like the elephants, their mahouts too live in misery, says the official document.
With the number of captive elephants dwindling and no new animal births recorded in the State, captive elephants may disappear from the State in the near future. The four elephant camps of the State together house 27 elephants. Six cow elephants and two tuskers could be used for breeding. The Forest Veterinary Officer has suggested shifting the breeding population to elephant camp at Kottoor near Thiruvananthapuram.
While formulating steps for the welfare of the animals, experts suggested, introducing measures for protecting the animals and improving their living conditions.