An ailing temple elephant in Salem died a natural death on Saturday, just days after the Madras High Court allowed its mercy killing. The demise comes in the middle of protests by devotees who wished for the elephant's natural demise and rallied against the court order.
The elephant, Rajeswar, the 42-year-old pachyderm at the famous Sri Sugavaneshwarar temple in Salem, had been suffering from acute Tuberculosis for the last 10 year of which she was cured few years ago. Recently, her legs stopped functioning rendering her immobile. Her situation worsened when she fell and injured her left leg. She was bedridden and this led to sores developing all over her body.
The animal finally passed away at 12:20 pm on Saturday, a senior official of the Animal Husbandry department told The Hindu.
Thousands of devotees had been thronging to see the elephant since Monday even as she was being treated by a group of veterinarians and supervised by experts.
Last week, the Madras HC ordered that the elephant can be administered euthanasia if a local veterinary officer inspected her and certified that prolonging her life is only going to add to its suffering.
Following this, a team of veterinarians from the Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (Tanuvas) visited and examined the elephant, and submitted a report to the court, according to media reporters.
However, this report asked for the treatment of the elephant to be continued, Salem District Collector, Rohini R Bhajibhakare, was quoted as saying.
Wishing for the elephant's natural demise, devotees had also considered moving the Supreme Court to oppose the mercy killing order.
As news of Rajeswari's demise spread, several devotees gathered to pay their respects. Garlands and wreaths were laid on her and the priest of the temple reportedly conducted ‘atirumanjana abhisekam’ and covered the animal in a silk shawl.
After the rituals, a team of specialists from the Veterinary College and Research Institute, Namakkal, did an autopsy on her remains. The elephant was then buried in the Gorimedu premises in the evening, stated the report.