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AT Vadanappalli in Kerala’s Thrissur district on Sunday 8 Apr 07, a furious elephant went on the rampage while carrying the body of the mahout it killed during the Chettuva Chandanakkudam festival. The elephant attacked another elephant taking part in the parade and later killed its mahout, TDM Unni and injured 24 persons during the show. It was a function at the government UP school in Chettuva near Thrissur when suddenly, one of the elephants, turned violent. He went after those sitting on him, killing the mahout.
Kerala may boast of its love for captive elephants but recent incidents have shown just how cruel and inhuman God's Own Country has sometimes been to these animals. Forest officials say the real villain is the middleman who hires elephants from owners during the temple festival season. Instead of limiting the number of outings for the elephant, he tries to take the animal to as many festivals as possible, to increase earnings.
The elephant suffers in terms of food, water and rest and that makes them irritable and violent. Animal lovers want the abuse of elephants to stop.
The mahouts are poorly paid and the working conditions leave much to be desired. On the job, they are often mistrustful of each other, the principal mahout rarely letting his assistant become a complete master of his elephant or learn all the tricks of the trade for fear of losing his job. The real owner often would know only the principal mahout and not the other keepers of his elephant, especially when elephants are leased out for the festival season. In most cases, the mahouts fail to exhibit the compassion and caring that was the hallmark of their predecessors. Eventually, elephants would fall into the hands of wayward keepers, who, almost always high on alcohol and ganja, brutalise or maim the animals, lead them into accidents or abandon them on highways or at city centres. Left to bear the brunt of all such changes are the poor elephants themselves, increasingly in demand but facing declining standards of care. According to the Elephant Lovers' Association, between January 2006 and March 2007, 147 elephants died in Kerala, the majority of the deaths reportedly occurring as a result of ill-treatment, if not torture. Heart-rending accounts of elephants being tortured have been reported from the State, many of these happening soon after a new keeper took charge or after elephants changed hands. According to eyewitness accounts, frequent `initiation ceremonies' (known as kettiazhikkal) to make the beast obey the new keeper often extends for hours on end.
"A penny for your thoughts"
Saturday, January 3, 2009
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