Captive jumbos toil hard under poor health

Many captive elephants are in poor health due to overwork in Kerala.

Updated: May 09, 2010, 11:43 AM IST

Thiruvananthapuram: Many captive elephants are in poor health due to overwork and want of timely medical care in Kerala known for its parades of majestic tuskers in glittering festive gear during carnivals.

According to animal rights groups, not only aged elephants, but even those in prime youth are weakened by hard toil, infections and diseases as they are made to work hard, especially during the festival seasons in scorching heat.

While the state agencies hold that the situation is not as alarming as made out by the NGOs, they admit the healthcare infrastructure and implementation of elephant upkeep rules are still to be improved.

The state has about 700 captive elephants, mostly in the possession of individual owners and temple managements.

According to Thrissur-based Elephant Lovers Association (ELA), out of these, 70 elephants had died in the last few years alone. Many of them were in the prime age between 35 and 50.

"We have repeatedly brought this matter to the notice of authorities. But no serious probe or scientific examination has been conducted into the death of younger elephants and remedial steps involved to prevent them," ELA General Secretary Venkitachalam told a news agency.

According to a senior veterinary surgeon in the Wildlife Department, advocacy groups raise points that merit serious consideration even though they exaggerate the figures.

While elephant upkeep rules framed by the state government have clear clauses on the medical care of the jumbos, a health care infrastructure has not been created.