BY: STAFF CORRESPONDENT
Oct 5, GURUVAYUR, KERALA (NEW INDIA PRESS) Parade, feast marks elephants' day, activists cry for care.
A colourful parade of elephants and a special feast were held here on the occasion of World Elephants' Day on Tuesday, while animal rights groups appealed to owners and mahouts to care for the animals.
About 40 pachyderms led by Gajaratnam Padmnabhan marched from the 'Manjulaal' at the eastern corridor of the Sri Krishna temple to the statue of legendary tusker Guruvayur Kesavan to pay floral tributes.
State Tourism and Devaswom Minister K C Venugopal said a special project would be implemented to improve facilities at the temple's elephant camp - Punnathur Kotta -where 60 elephants owned by the temple are kept and fed.
Guruvayur Sri Krishna temple has the largest possession of elephants, a majority of them tuskers, gifted by devotees.
Expressing concern over reports of atrocities on captive elephants, Thrissur-based Elephant Lovers Association urged owners and trainers to treat the animal compassionately.
"The rules for proper upkeep are there. But they are often flouted. Captive elephants are overworked, underfed and even denied proper medical attention," the association general secretary K V Venkitachalam told PTI.
"Kerala has the largest number of captive elephants in the country. But it is shocking that there is not even a burial ground for them. The carcass is often taken to far off places to be disposed of," he said.
Government rules insisted on maintaining records on the upkeep of the elephants such as possession certificate, food register, route permit and route register.
The rules also banned marching the jumbos for long distances when the elephants are taken for ferrying timber or even for temple festivals.
"Chained elephants walking on roads under scorching sun with ankle wounds or foot sore is a common sight in Kerala, especially during the festival season," Venkitachalam said.
There were also reports of aged elephants being killed to obtain the insurance money, he said.
There are about 700 captive elephants in Kerala. Individuals own more than 70 per cent of them, 14 per cent under the possession of the forest department and six per cent by temples.
For centuries elephants have been part and parcel of Kerala's tradition and are a colourful attraction of temple festivals where caparisoned elephants are paraded.