World Elephant Day: At least 60 died in captivity in Kerala in last 3 years

World Elephant Day: At least 60 died in captivity in Kerala in last 3 years
This is 'Churulikomban' as named by forest watchers and local people in Kanjikode. The name given by Kerala Forest Department is 'Palakkad Tuskers 5'. Photo: Vibi Job

Thiruvananthapuram: Elephants in Kerala are going through a rough patch of late. Elephant lovers claimed around 60 died in captivity in the last three years. As another World Elephant Day, August 12, is observed on Thursday, they expect proactive action from the authorities to improve the lot of the much-adored land animal.

Now, there are 480 captive elephants, as per the state government data. But elephant lovers point out that only 461 remain.

The State Government had submitted in the Supreme Court in November 2018 that there were 521 captive elephants in Kerala. Three elephants died in December 2018. Twenty elephants each died in 2019 and 2020. And 17 elephants have died so far this year.

Kerala Veterinary University Elephant Study Centre director Dr T S Rajeev said that the elephants were mainly affected by diseases of the digestive system.

Post-mortem conducted on most of the dead elephants revealed that they had impaction, a severe form of constipation in which undigested food blocked the intestinal passage.

Most of the dead look shockingly skinny; their tummies squeezed in and their bones pushing out like dead cattle found in barren deserts.

The forest department is monitoring all elephants in the state with microchips.

Day-to-day worries

After the COVID-19 pandemic struck, there have been no parades or festivals for nearly two years. Without any income, the owner has to spend Rs 5,000 daily for the elephant.

As per the current law, the elephant cannot be sold or bought. If not needed, the elephants can be handed over to the government. But there is no compensation. An adult elephant is currently valued at Rs 80 lakh.

The Heritage Animal Task Force (HATF) claimed elephant owners abandon the elephants after they have no more use of them.

Strong room

A strong room, built at the forest department headquarters in Thiruvananthapuram, to store ivory and sandalwood logs will be inaugurated this month end.

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