Thriprayar Balaraman, the beloved Kerala elephant famous for his appearances at the Aarattupuzha pooram, died on Monday in Thrissur. Animal rights activists are now alleging that the 68-year-old blind tusker passed away because of improper treatment.
Since the 1970s, the elephant had been a fixture at one of the oldest poorams in the state. But for the past six months, the elephant had been unwell. Heritage Animal Task Force (HATF), an organisation that has worked for the welfare of animals for more than two decades, believe that Balaraman died because he was receiving experimental treatment for a foot disease.
“The animal was subjected to treatment where hot oil was poured on the sole of its legs. The animal was burnt on part of its legs where the oil was poured. The part of leg near the sole of foot was infected after that and we could even see worms in it,” Heritage Animal Task Force secretary V K Venkitachalam told TNM.
In January, HATF’s had complained to the Social Forestry Department in Thrissur, which took up a case against the Cochin Devaswom Board secretary and the elephant mahouts for improper care of the animal.
“But even after giving complaint, there was no change in the way the tusker was treated. The elephant could not eat for all these months as it could not stand on its feet. We strongly condemn the irresponsibility of the Cochin Devaswom Board and hold it responsible for the death of Balaraman,” added Venkitachalam.
According to the members of the organisation, the mahouts and the doctor who were treating Balaraman had not followed proper procedures while treating captive elephants.
In January, the Chief Wildlife Warden issued a circular as the number of captive elephant deaths in the state was increasing. According to the circular, if an elephant showed signs of resistance to certain treatment even after five days of medication, the case should be referred to experts in Forest Department.
“The matter should be then referred to the opinion of a panel of expert veterinarians for ensuring qualified veterinary treatment and healthcare of the elephants,” the circular stated.
The circular also noted that it was the duty of owners or custodians of the captive elephant to keep officials informed. The members of Heritage Animal Task Force allege that this was not done for Balaraman.
“The veterinarian who was treating the elephant did not even come to examine the animal frequently. I had even asked him personally why he had taken up the responsibility to cure the animal if he did not have enough time,” said Venkitachalam.Meanwhile officials in the biodiversity cell of Forest Department told TNM that action would be taken against the owners of the elephant if it was proven that the animal died due to lack of proper treatment. “We will conduct post-mortem of the elephant and action will be taken accordingly,” an official said.