Guidelines to ensure wellbeing of Kerala elephants

June 17th, 2008 - 5:42 pm ICT by IANS  

Thiruvananthapuram, June 17 (IANS) Elephant owners, mahouts and veterinarians are getting together to frame guidelines for the management of captive elephants in Kerala to ensure the animals are not overworked and ill-treated. The Elephant Welfare Association of the state will hold a meeting June 29 in Thrissur, about 300 km from here, to draw up a set of rules for the owners and handlers of captive elephants.

Elephant expert Jacob Cheeran told IANS: “We expect around 400 people to take part in the day-long seminar where about six papers will be presented. Following the presentations, there will be a discussion and guidelines for proper elephant management will be drawn up by the end of the day. These will be submitted to the government.”

There are about 800 captive elephants in Kerala, and temples and churches vie with one another to have elephants dressed up for their festivals. Sometimes the animals run amok and trample spectators. Over 18 people have been killed by rampaging elephants this year.

“Elephants run amok either because mahouts are not able to handle them properly or they are ill-treated. The elephants should be fed properly and allowed adequate rest. They become violent when they are overworked,” said Cheeran.

K.B. Ganesh Kumar, president of the Kerala Elephant Owners Federation, said: “The festival season in Kerala is close to six months and people make money by overworking the elephants. There have been instances when elephants have been made to work for more than 100 days in a six month period, which is dangerous.”

An elephant owner gets about Rs.50,000 for leasing out his animal for six months.

“There are rules for managing captive elephants but they are inadequate. We are glad that the seminar will come out with a comprehensive guideline,” said Kumar, who owns a 19-year-old tusker valued at about Rs.500,000.

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