Years of effort put in by animal welfare activists in Kerala appears to have finally borne fruit with the Kerala Forest Department acknowledging that they have faulted in the implementation of the Kerala Captive Elephants (Management and Maintenance) Rules, 2012.
It took the death of more than 10 captive elephants – as the Department itself validates in a recent circular – for it to assert that the rules that are in place in prevent the cruelty towards jumbos will hereupon be strictly implemented.
PK Kesavan, Chief Wildlife Warden (CWW), in a circular dated May 2, states that a large number of complaints have been raised in the recent past with regard to the ill treatment of captive elephants in the state.
"More than 10 captive elephants have died during the current year, so far, which is alleged to be due to the careless handling of the animals, as well as due to willful negligence," reads the circular, in possession with TNM.
Saying that laxity in implementing the rules have been cited as a reason for the alarming rise in the number of captive elephants death in the state, the CWW directed the forest officials to closely monitor the implementation of the rules.
The emphasises on the protection of elephants that are being used for temple processions and other activities. Elephants that are in high demand are likely to be overworked, the circular points out, adding that such animals will be identified in each district and closely monitored.
With elephants being an integral part of temple festivals in Kerala and therefore having to be amongst large crowds of people, Forest Department officials have to make sure that the elephants are not provoked.
In case a violation is noted, necessary instructions shall be given in writing to the owner. Meetings need to be convened at the beginning and at the end of festival seasons, in order to take a stock of the violations and monitor the implementation of rules.
According to the circular, the elephant will be seized from the owner, in case of repeated violation of rules.
Heritage Animal Task Force (HATF), an elephant welfare organisation based in Thrissur, released a statement saying that they would "like to express thanks to all the persons and organisations who contributed relentless efforts to protest against the cruelty to elephants in captivity in Kerala".