Thrissur: As festival season begins in central Kerala, mahouts are getting a refresher course. The Kerala Elephant Owners’ Federation has organised a training camp for mahouts in association with the Forest and Wildlife Department. The five-day training programme began here on Tuesday. The programme gains importance in the context of the increasing number of incidents of elephants running amok at festivals every year.
“Captive elephants are under tremendous physical and mental stress. Most of them have no physical exercise except during the four-month festival season. This makes them frustrated,” says Forest Veterinary Officer E.K. Eswaran.
According to veterinarian K.N. Muraleedharan Nair, a young elephant needs daily exercise equivalent to six-hours of brisk walk.
There is a serious absence of a bond between mahouts and elephants.
“The conditions of the mahouts are no better than those of the elephants. The elephant handlers get stressed-out after long hours of work when festivals last several days. Irregular food habits and absence of proper lodging too affect their health. Many take refuge in alcohol and land in trouble,” says Dr. Eswaran.
The sensitisation programme is meant for mahouts with at least three years of experience. In all, 63 mahouts are participating in the camp.
During the camp, veterinary experts will speak on various topics such as scientific methods of elephant care, elephant behaviour, elephant management rules and symptoms of musth.