Asian elephants have been elevated to India’s Heritage Animal status, featured on the emblem of the Government of Kerala. But ironically these same animals are captured and tortured for status quo and material gain.
Of the 3000 captive elephants in India, more than 21 per cent – at least 800 of them – mostly bulls, are used in Kerala’s cultural festivities and temple rituals. These male Asians elephants, also known as tuskers (as females don’t have tusks) are adorned in gold-plated ornaments and flaunted near temple grounds, particularly in the areas surrounding Trissur city – Kerala’s cultural capital.
Kerala’s festival season that falls between December and May is a period of booming business for elephant owners, mahouts and brokers. But it’s a torturous period for the elephants, as they are paraded through massive crowds in the scorching heat carrying nearly close to 800 lbs of weight, including four men on their back, a massive frame engraved with their deity, and heavy ornaments with all four legs shackled.
Worse yet, this is their peak mating season – called Musth – when bulls become dominant, desperate to release their built up energy and fat reserves. It’s impossible and indeed risky to coerce the elephants to parade during their musth, so they are tethered 24/7 in limited space. It’s difficult to even comprehend the physical and psychological impact on these elephants!!
Don’t you think depriving them of their basic instinct to mate is in itself is torturous? For instance this elephant below had just come of his musth and we were told he was confined to this space 24/7 , fed from a distance, watered with garden hose and as a result was unable to participate in festivities until he fully recovered.