Staff Reporter

Call for strict adherence to rules on management of captive elephants

PATHANANTHITTA: Three temple elephants running amok during festival processions and goring humans as well as animals to death in two separate incidents in the past two months have sent shock waves in the Central Travancore region.

An elephant brought for the temple festival at Mankompu in Kuttanad turned violent and trampled the mahout to death on December 31. The pachyderm with bloodstained tusk strode all the way from Mankompu to its "home village'' of Vallamkulam, near Thiruvalla. There were reports that the elephant was underfed.

In another incident, two elephants turned violent during a temple procession at Chengannur on January 31. The elephants ran amok along the nearby roads.

One of them, Sivasankaran belonging to the Kunnamthanam Devi Temple, near Thiruvalla, killed a 60-year-old woman who was on her way to bring milk from Othera village. The elephant also attacked a man who was fishing in a canal and some huts in the locality before it was tethered at Katode, near Thiruvalla, by the mahouts, after about seven hours' struggle.

The same elephant was taken to Sabarimala for the Makaravilakku festival a few weeks ago.

Another elephant turned violent and killed a buffalo, two goats and a stray dog, besides damaging many huts and houses in the Budhanur area, near Chengannur.

Talking to The Hindu , A.G. Babu, secretary of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in Idukki, alleged that such incidents occurred due to the negligence on the part of the authorities concerned in ensuring strict compliance of the rules on the management and upkeep of captive elephants under the Wildlife Protection Act.

Though the rules clearly specify that chains with sharp edges or nylon ropes should not be used to tether an elephant, Sivasankaran was tethered with a thick nylon rope in the courtyard of house, he alleged.

Mr. Babu said that those in charge of festivals should ensure that the animals were not made to stand for more than four hours for rituals or ceremonies. He said that the presence of SPCA officials' should also be ensured when more than two elephants were used in a ceremony.

Thomas P. Thomas, environmentalist and Botany professor, said that using elephants with symptoms of `masth' for rituals is an offence.

The elephants should be transported in lorries to distances over 30 km, he added.

The Government has also specified norms to be followed when elephants were paraded during festivals, transported by foot or in vehicles, medical check-up and provision of water, fodder and accommodation and training of mahouts, besides the handling them at times of `masth,' Mr. Babu said.

Dr. Thomas said that it should be ensured that the first mahout had a minimum experience of three years.