Jumbo-size worries to mark observance of ‘Gaja Dinam’

The State is set to mark ‘Gaja Dinam’ (Or Elephant Day) on Sunday in muted observance amid concerns over the well-being of captive elephants in the aftermath of the complete lockdown.

The occasion also comes calling against the backdrop of a steady fall in the State’s captive elephant population from 521 (during a census in 2018) to 484 at present. The last death was reported late Friday when 75-year-old Maniyan, one of the senior-most elephants in the State, died in a State-run facility in Konni after losing a protracted battle with difficulties arising due to constipation. Besides old age, the worrying number of deaths is largely attributed to their unscientific management.

The recent lockdown has also had a cascading effect on the pachyderms with low economic activity, partly fuelled by the COVID-19-induced curbs on festivals, taking a toll on the welfare of captive elephants. Elephant owners have claimed hardships in ensuring their maintenance under the circumstances.

Chief Wildlife Warden Surendrakumar said elephant owners cared less for the pachyderms as these animals could not earn them income during the lockdown. The scenario began to affect their health. While the Forest Department ensured elephant owners largely complied with the norms relating to elephant shelters, several issues persisted in their management, he added.

Kerala Elephant Owners Federation general secretary P. Sasikumar said that the extended lockdown, during which several festivals including the famed Thrissur Pooram were held low-key, burned a deep hole in their pockets. “While the restrictions were necessary to contain the pandemic, the situation has created immense difficulty in maintaining elephants. It costs an average of around ₹5000 a day. We hope normalcy would be restored during the next peak festival season to tide over the crisis,” he said.

P.S. Easa, former director of Kerala Forest Research Institute (KFRI), pointed out that the stagnant lifestyle of most captive elephants in the State under the current circumstances could lead to both physiological and mental ailments. The dwindling income was also bound to affect manpower that cared for the elephants, he said.

The elephant expert rued the State’s failure to establish the Kerala State Elephant Welfare Board that was actively considered during the previous UDF regime to cushion the fallout of similar economic slumps and exigencies.

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Printable version | Sep 19, 2021 2:25:27 PM |

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