Tusker Ambalappuzha Vijayakrishnan, 51, owned by the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) died on Thursday. His death provoked a huge outpouring of grief and anger.
After the elephant died on the Ambalappuzha Sree Krishna Swamy temple premises in the morning, animal rights activists and devotees accused the TDB of ill-treating him, denying him rest and proper medication. People who thronged the temple alleged that the animal had suffered at the hands of mahout. They did not allow the carcass to be taken to Konni for post-mortem examination, demanding action, including against TDB officials.
The elephant, popular among devotees, had been unwell for some time. Last month, in spite of suffering a “severe injury” to his leg, he was taken to a temple in Kollam to be paraded in a festival, after being granted a fitness certificate by a TDB veterinarian. However, the elephant was brought back following interventions by animal rights activists. It was alleged then that the injury on his leg was inflicted by the “poking with a metal instrument.” It is learnt that the elephant’s condition worsened two days ago.
Sally Varma, Animal Welfare Board of India’s nominee member for the captive elephant management committee in Alappuzha, said the lax attitude of the Devaswom authorities had led to the elephant’s death. “The Devaswom allowed the elephant’s parading at Thevalakkara last month in spite of the injury, allegedly inflicted by the mahout. The Devaswom veterinarian surprisingly gave a certificate that said the elephant is fit to be paraded. After the matter was raised with the forest officials, the elephant was shifted back, but it was probably too late,” Ms. Varma said.
She said introspection was needed on the captivity of elephants. “The death of Ambalappuzha Vijayakrishnan is an opportunity for us to look at the way we (mis)treat our elephants. Forcing elephants to perform actions unnatural to them will hurt both the animal and humans in the long run. It is high time we ended the practice of keeping elephants in captivity,” Ms. Varma added.
Officials with the Kerala Forests and Wildlife Department said the cause of the death could only be ascertained after receiving the post-mortem report.