Thechikottukavu Ramachandran, the tallest elephant in Kerala, has lengthy been the centre of an argument. On Saturday, the Thrissur district administration revoked its ban on parading the elephant within the well-known Thrissur Pooram temple pageant in Kerala.
The choice ultimately ended the talk that started in April after the administration banned the elephant from the pageant citing its ailing well being and violent behaviour. The 55-year-old elephant has trampled upon 14 folks since late 1990s and is blind in a single eye.
Pageant organisers and elephant homeowners had been demanding to rescind the choice since then, arguing the ban on the tallest captive elephant in Kerala at 10.5 ft would take the sheen off the state’s greatest temple pageant, which is scheduled to be held on Could 13 and 14.
The final time Ramachandran went uncontrolled was simply three months in the past, on February eight, when he trampled upon two folks at a housewarming ceremony in Thrissur district. Regardless of his notoriety, the jumbo enjoys an enormous fan following due to his imposing physique. Followers have created not less than 10 Fb pages for him.
The Federation of Elephant House owners additionally threatened to cease renting out jumbos to festivals throughout the state if his ban to attend Pooram was not revoked.
The controversy had taken a political tone with the BJP alleging that the Pinarayi Vijayan-led authorities was attempting to disrupt temple rituals because it had completed in Sabarimala final yr. This was a reference to the federal government’s resolution to implement a Supreme Courtroom judgment permitting girls of all ages to worship on the temple. Earlier, solely women and girls not of menstruating age had been allowed into the temple.
District collector TV Anupama declared on Saturday staff of docs has licensed that the elephant is medically match to be paraded within the pageant.
The controversy has, nevertheless, put the highlight on the stress elephants are subjected to through the 10-month lengthy temple pageant season in Kerala, which begins in August and ends in Could.
Too many festivals, too few elephants
Parades of bedecked elephants bearing idols and vibrant parasols are a typical sight through the temple pageant season in Kerala. In line with unofficial estimates, greater than 500 such festivals are held throughout this season.
On the Thrissur Pooram pageant, other than the elephant parade, ensembles of percussion devices and a fireworks show are main points of interest.
Animal rights teams say the pageant season places an enormous quantity of strain on the state’s captive elephants who don’t obtain satisfactory relaxation for a number of months at a time.
One of many causes for it’s because their numbers have declined up to now 10 years whereas the variety of temple festivals has gone up.
An elephant at a temple pageant venue. (Picture credit score: TA Ameerudheen).
In 2008, Kerala had 617 captive elephants. This determine is now lower than 400, whereas the variety of festivals has elevated to over 500.
“The rise within the variety of festivals places strain on the animals as these 400 elephants need to grace greater than 500 festivals,” mentioned Venkatachalam, founding father of the Heritage Animal Activity Pressure, a Thrissur-based non-governmental organisation working to stop cruelty in the direction of animals.
The variety of elephants utilized in every pageant ranges from 5 to 120. In 2018, as many as 117 elephants had been a part of the Thrissur Pooram parade.
“House owners get Rs three lakh a day for each elephant they hire out,” mentioned Venkatachalam.
The large sum of money at stake means homeowners even hire out elephants when they’re in musth – a periodic situation in male elephants, when a surge in reproductive hormones makes them aggressive, which generally results in the lack of lives. This situation can final just a few weeks or months.
On Friday, a captive elephant introduced for a ceremonial procession at a temple in Pathanamthitta ran amok damaging just a few autos. On April 13, an elephant introduced for a temple procession in Kollam district killed his mahout and injured many individuals when it went berserk.
Lengthy journeys in shackles
The pageant season can be significantly tense for elephants as a result of they need to be transported from one venue to a different. For this, they’re typically loaded onto vans and shackled, and have to stay that manner on lengthy highway journeys with out a lot sleep or meals
Animal rights activists say insufficient meals and relaxation impacts the digestive system and lungs of elephants and ultimately kills them. “Greater than 30 elephants have died within the final 18 months,” mentioned an activist on situation of anonymity.
In 2018, a submit mortem discovered that the dying of 46-year-old elephant Thiruvambadi Sivasundar – a well-liked presence at temple festivals, together with Thrissur Pooram – was as a result of impaction, or the blocking of the digestive tract with faecal matter.
An elephant being transported to a pageant venue. (Picture credit score: TA Ameerudheen).
Careless dealing with of animals and negligence by truck drivers have additionally harm many elephants. On April 14, an elephant suffered deep gashes on his brow after the driving force of the truck the animal was being transported in went to fill gas. “He drove the automobile into the petrol pump with out taking into consideration the peak of the roof [of the petrol pump],” the mahout mentioned.
In Could 2018, following the deaths of 59 captive elephants since 2016, the state forest division revised the Kerala Captive Elephants Administration and Upkeep Guidelines, 2012, to take strict authorized motion towards those that torture or mistreat the animals.
The brand new guidelines stipulate that no elephant might be put to work through the musth interval, a report of every elephant’s musth interval have to be stored, and the animal have to be given ample care and relaxation throughout this time.
On Could 9, the Kerala Excessive Courtroom directed district-level committees to strictly implement a Supreme Courtroom order from August 2015 that banned sick, injured and pregnant elephants from taking part in processions and festivals. The Supreme Courtroom had additionally mentioned that if the elephant was tortured, the state might confiscate the animal and provoke prison proceedings towards the particular person accountable.
The Excessive Courtroom sought the providers of conservationist PS Easa to assist the amicus curiae (pal of the courtroom) to arrange an in depth report on the matter.
“We must always attempt to kind out points affecting captive elephants by dialogue with the homeowners and pageant committees,” mentioned Easa. “A confrontational method won’t assist the elephants.”