THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The new head of forest force, P.K. Keshavan, has taken charge at a time when cruelty towards elephants is at an all time high. In February alone, six captive elephants have died, a death rate never seen before.
Thrissur witnessed three deaths in February; Kunnamkulam Sivan (17), Chelipparambil Vinayakan (45), and Vayalasseri Kesavan (50). There was one death each in Thiruvananthpauram, Kollam and Idukki districts.
In Thiruvananthapuram, Neyyattinkara Kannan, a 22-year-old elephant suffering for over three years in the backyard of a temple in the outskirts of the capital, finally succumbed to its injuries. In Kollam district, Puthankulam Chandrasekharan alia Koduman Deepu (52) died. In Munnar, a female Elephant named Chandrika (32), allegedly used for tourism purposes, died inside a tourism resort named "Persian Paradise".
The state's foremost elephant activist V.K. Venkitachalam said that all the killings were the result of the illegal activities of what he called the 'elephant mafia". "All these six elephants were kept by persons having no statutory ownership certificate and, who had failed to provide statutory shelter sheds for these elephants," Mr Venkitachalam said. According to him, the elephants died mainly due to mismanagement and lack of veterinary care. He said most of the problems suffered by captive elephants in the state were related to overwork and torture by unscrupulous mahouts. "No other state in the country has witnessed such intentional torture and killing of elephants in captivity," Mr Venkitachalam said.
Elephanticide seems to be the state's favourite pastime. During 2016, 26 captive elephants were killed. The very next year, 20 had died. Mahouts were also killed these years. In the two months this year, three mahouts were victims of elephant rage. Mr Venkitachalam further alleged that all elephant deaths in 2018 occurred in the premises of elephant contractors who supply them to temples and for tourism purposes after taking these beasts on rent from people who do not possess an ownership certificate.
Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, and the Declaration of Wildlife Stock Rules, 2003, prohibit anyone from taking custody of an elephant without possessing an ownership certificate. Mr Venkitachalam said that there are 518 elephants in the state without an ownership certificate, most of them smuggled from Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, U.P, Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.