3 April 2007

Elephant Cruelty

It was with great sadness that I learnt from Ruku’s (the elephant) handler that the rejuvenation camp for Temple elephants (including Tiruvannamalai District) did not take place in 2006 and is unlikely to occur this year, 2007.

Mudumulai elephant rejuvenation camp, 2005

Since the recent change of State Government, the notion of an Elephant one-month rejuvenation camp held in the Tamil Nadu forests, has been disbanded. It is heart-breaking news that such noble animals should be deprived of even one month a year of decent living amongst their own kinds. Instead Temple elephants have a life of drudgery, overwork and often cruelty from harsh, untrained handlers.

Hampi Elephant

When I recently spoke to Ruku's mahout, he insisted that Ruku's life is much better than most Temple elephants; and I have no reason not to believe him. There is no doubt that the mahout himself is kinder than most handlers. However a life of standing motionless on cold concrete for up to 10 hours a day for the benefit of visiting pilgrims with only a chained night on cold concrete to look forward to and always far distant from any of its own is hardly a 'kindness'.

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For more information about the life of elephants in South India, I reproduce here a recent article from The Hindu newspaper:

Kerala elephants during procession

"Overuse, cruelty driving elephants to madness: KOCHI: Kerala, the home to most number of captive elephants, is fast becoming their torture ground as well.

Parading the animals in musth, stretching their working hours beyond reasonable limits, provocation by public and cruelty by mahouts are driving the elephants to madness.

This year, there were nearly 10 instances of animals running wild and killing two mahouts and causing widespread damage to property. In a recent instance in Thrissur, the elephant killed its first mahout when another mahout who was moving behind it stabbed the elephant with a knife.

Elephant parade

In another incident at Cherthala, a young elephant that was paraded in a temple, ran wild when someone burst a balloon near it.

While musth was the main reason for the elephants running wild, there were other factors like ill-treatment, provocation from outside elements and excitement that could upset the mental balance of the animal, said K.M. Abraham Tharakan, a veterinarian who had tranquillised nearly 135 elephants during the last 10 years.

For Dr. Tharakan, every working hour is a close encounter with death. There is every possibility that the animal hit by the dart charging towards the direction from where it is fired. There were instances in the past when the veterinarian had to run for cover after darting the animal. One less fortunate veterinarian was killed by the animal he had darted.

In the face of increasing instances of captive elephants running wild and causing death and destruction, the Forest Department issued directives to its officers to ensure that all the regulations regarding the parading of elephants were observed.

It would be an uphill task for the Forest Department to take care of the elephants in distress as it required heavy investment and huge manpower, said V.S. Varghese, Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife).

Temples and other religious and social organisations should desist from the practice of parading maximum number of elephants to add colour and life to festivals. People should also be aware of the stress such incidents were causing to the animals and discourage such practices, he said.

K.C. Panicker, secretary of the Elephant Welfare Association, said the incidents of elephants running wild could be controlled if the elephants in musth were not paraded.

As the musth season of the elephants coincided with the temple festival season, a section of the elephant owners make best use of this occasion to make money by letting the animals, including the ones in musth, to be paraded."

Please remember that all elephants in parades or Temples are living unnatural, unpleasant and often tortured lives. When you go to a Temple and give money to the mahout for the elephant to Bless you on the head with its trunk you are promoting the continual misuse of elephants in Temples. By visiting elephant processions at Kerala and elsewhere you are also promoting heart-breaking elephant cruelty. PLEASE SUPPORT OUR FRIEND THE ELEPHANT BY NOT SUPPORTING ITS EXPLOITATION.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

While the elephant was alive, we saw the mahout forcing the elephant to drink in a small water tap that common temple visitors use to quench her thirst and that too he without even allowing her to drink enough he chased her to her place in order to force her into begging in the name of blessings and though he had already collected 5 large plastic bags full of coins, he was promoting that her hair is lucky and one can easily wear them on two fingers and demanded money in thousands from the pilgrims. Whoever say this plight simply prayed loudly that only lord Shiva has to save her and now we hear the news that she got scared by some monkeys and dogs hence both of her hind legs were tied and then she hit herself on the walls to death. Hope the truth comes out and Lord Shiva rescues all the temple elephant across India that seems to endure similar inhuman treatment.