Concerned over the cases of two captive elephants that were infected by foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), elephant owners in the State are coming together to protect the national animal from the epidemic.

As a precautionary measure to prevent infection among its herd, the Guruvayur Devaswom had recently banned visitors from its Punnathurkotta elephant camp. The 60 elephants of the devaswom are housed at the camp, which is visited by hundreds every day.

Though the disease would have a mild impact on elephants, the news of infection had created panic among elephant owners. Confusion is also prevailing among the owners on the management and preventive measures to be adopted for protecting the animal.

T.S. Rajeev, Assistant Professor at the Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, Thrissur, said that he had received calls from around 20 elephant owners following the news.

Wildlife experts had earlier pointed out that the two-hoofed animals were at risk. Though elephant does not fall in that category, instances of captive animals falling sick had been confirmed in the State, which had set the alarm bells ringing. As the temple festival season is to begin shortly, many elephant owners are apprehensive that the spread of infection may hit the participation of animals in festivities.

Considering the concerns raised by the elephant owners, The Kerala Elephant Owners Federation has convened a meeting of the veterinarians and elephant experts at Thrissur on Saturday. The management measures to be adopted for protecting the animals would be finalised at the meeting, said P. Sasikumar, general secretary of the federation.

At the same time, veterinarians said that the disease would not leave any major health hazards on the elephants. It would only have a mild impact on the health of the animal and the infected ones would recover quickly. They were also found responding to medicines, said Dr. Rajeev.

Sabu C. Issac, a veterinarian who attended an infected animal, said that the disease could prove fatal for calves. Not many instances of elephants getting infected have been reported in the country. However, the veterinary medicine textbooks say that the animals are susceptible to infection, he said.

In both the cases of infection, the animals were located at places where cattle had contracted FMD. The elephants can get infected from cattle but they would not spread it to another elephant, he said.

Though the elephant owners had sought medical opinion for vaccinating the animals, veterinarians advised against it as vaccination could not prevent the spread of disease among cattle. A large number of vaccinated cattle had developed infection. The reasons of vaccinated animals developing the disease were yet to be ascertained. Hence, it was suggested that the elephants need not be vaccinated, said a veterinarian.

More In: Kerala | National | Kochi