Poor diet, low exercise leave TN temple elephants stressed, unhealthy


Temple elephants in TN endure from lack of a fibre wealthy weight-reduction plan and a devoted veterinarian assist; the mahouts fail to grasp elephant behaviour, which seems to be dangerous for the pachyderm in the long term

Temple elephants, Tamil Nadu, ill health
A temple elephant having fun with a shower at a rejuvenation camp close to Coimbatore. Although temple elephants in TN are a part of 40-day elephant rejuvenation camps yearly and endure common well being checks, most of them endure from poor well being.

The ailing well being of two temple elephants in Tamil Nadu has as soon as once more delivered to the fore the problem of how captive elephants will not be adequately cared for with a fibre-rich weight-reduction plan and devoted veterinarian assist. Temple elephant mahouts too appear to lack an understanding of elephant behaviour, which seems to be dangerous for the pachyderms in the long term.

Whereas Parvati, the elephant in Arulmigu Meenakshi Sundareshwarar temple in Madurai, has been recognized with a uncommon case of lens luxation and cataract within the left eye, Gandhimathi, who belongs to the Nellaiappar Gandhimathi temple in Tirunelveli, has been reportedly recognized with diabetes. Actually, to make sure the elephant doesn’t endure from foot and joint ache, some devotees and the merchants close to the temple gifted leather-based sandals to the elephant not too long ago.

Watch: Devotees reward sandals to Tirunelveli temple elephant

Based on state forest division information submitted to the Madras Excessive Court docket, as of September 2021, there are 31 temple elephants throughout Tamil Nadu. Regardless of allegations prior to now that the elephants are ill-treated, the state authorities has maintained that it takes all the required efforts to make sure their welfare.

Tamil Nadu can be well-known for conducting the 40-day elephant rejuvenation camps yearly to present the pachyderms a break from their routine life. In addition they endure intensive well being check-up at these camps. As well as, in February 2022, the Hindu Non secular and Charitable Endowments division got here out with normal working procedures for the care of temple elephants. Regardless of all these efforts, most temple elephants endure from poor well being.

Lack of correct weight-reduction plan and train

In 2008, N Baskaran, professor, division of zoology and wildlife biology, AVC Faculty, Mayiladuthurai, who’s an authority on Asian elephants, revealed in a examine that elephants in non-public services and temples are fed considerably much less stall feed in amount and high quality, as in comparison with the elephants beneath the forest division who even have entry to pure feed within the wild in addition to a supplementary weight-reduction plan.

The captive elephants within the state are supplied with 11 species of inexperienced fodder and browse (leaves of timber and shrubs) as stall feed, in addition to a supplementary weight-reduction plan of grains, millets and pulses in cooked type and pure feeds. Whereas the forest division supplies captive elephants extra of finger millets, the non-public keepers and temple authorities present them extra rice.

Furthermore, in non-public services, an grownup elephant on a mean is fed 8 kg of supplementary weight-reduction plan per day, which is decrease than the supplementary weight-reduction plan given to an grownup elephant within the forest division (which is nineteen kg per day per elephant) and the temple elephant that will get 10 kg per day per elephant.

Additional, the examine mentioned, “The inadequate provide of minerals and nutritional vitamins resulting from insufficient high quality and amount of inexperienced fodder and the supplementary weight-reduction plan within the case of personal and temple elephants might have an effect on their well being circumstances. A substantial variety of elephants within the temple facility with well being issues like arthritis, blindness and obese may be the results of insufficient vitamin and train.”

Speaking to The Federal, Baskaran mentioned that the majority temple elephants are affected by joint issues of their legs as a result of they don’t seem to be given sufficient bodily train.

“The elephants within the temples are all the time chained and stored idle in the identical place for days collectively. The elephants expertise a variety of frustration and if this isn’t addressed correctly, it turns right into a persistent degree of stress. The stress is expressed by way of its behaviour. Except the temple authorities and mahouts have understanding about elephant psychology, the bodily and psychological issues of the elephants proceed to develop,” he mentioned.

Baskaran steered that since most temples within the state have giant swathes of lands, the authorities can permit the elephants to sleep within the pure setting by chaining simply one in every of their legs at night time.

Additionally learn: Why mice and people usually tend to die of most cancers than elephants

Mahouts want to grasp elephant behaviour higher

Okay Kalidasan, founder, Osai, an setting organisation primarily based in Coimbatore, felt the state authorities and temple authorities lack a primary understanding of elephant behaviour.

Based on Kalidasan, who has served in numerous committees appointed by the state forest division to review the deaths of untamed elephants and the administration of elephants in captivity, elephants are mainly wild animals.

“Although we’ve managed elephants in captivity for 1000’s of years, it has not been domesticated but. The elephants within the wild eat grass, leaves, crops, tree branches and barks. Whereas temple elephants don’t get this type of a range of their meals. They’re given jaggery, fruits and sugarcane. However what they require is a fibre-rich, balanced weight-reduction plan, which is the necessity of the hour,” mentioned Kalidasan.

The skilled wished the temple authorities to comply with a few of the measures given within the SOP: preserve the elephants in a shadowy space, keep away from making them lie on concrete flooring and guarantee they’re taken for a stroll for just a few hours day-after-day. “Additionally, as an alternative of conducting 40 day lengthy camps at one place for all of the temple elephants, a camp may be organised for 5 elephants at a time within the neighborhood of the temples in each area,” he steered.

Kalidasan pressured that temple mahouts needs to be employed from Malasar and Kurumbar communities as a result of they’re historically concerned in coaching elephants and so they perceive the behaviour of the temple elephants higher.

“These mahouts are appointed in elephant coaching camps. They by no means use ankush (elephant goad with an iron hook) and as an alternative use a small stick. These elephants in time change into a member of the mahout’s household. This type of understanding and rapport is missing amongst most temple mahouts,” he added.

Additionally watch: Tamil Nadu’s elephant loss of life figures ring alarm bells

Above all, Kalidasan mentioned that every temple elephant ought to have a devoted veterinarian. The temple authorities ought to keep a well being register for every elephant and it needs to be periodically reviewed simply as it’s carried out within the captive elephant camps.

‘Vet experience under-utilised’

Speaking about the necessity to deliver veterinarians from Thailand to deal with the elephants for issues like cataract, Basakaran mentioned most elephants are in captivity in Thailand and due to this fact their veterinarians have a greater experience in treating the captive elephants.

“In states like Tamil Nadu, we have now a separate division known as animal husbandry. Principally veterinarians appointed within the forest division are on deputation from the animal husbandry division. Although the veterinarians have the experience, the lack of awareness amongst forest officers make them reluctant to cooperate with the veterinarians,” he mentioned.

Agreeing with Baskaran, Dr Asokan, a wildlife veterinarian with greater than 35 years of expertise and primarily based in Erode district mentioned that the experience of veterinarians like him are “underutilised”.

“In neighbouring Kerala, every temple elephant has a devoted veterinarian who takes care of the elephant for a few years. Whereas in Tamil Nadu, each different different day, completely different veterinarians deal with the elephants and therefore there isn’t any consistency. Equally, a veterinarian from one forest division isn’t taken severely by the forest officers of one other forest division. This type of ego politics places the lives of those treasured animals in danger,” he added.