Indian states act finally on behalf of captive elephants
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2008:
(Actual publication date 11-5-08.)
MYSORE, THRISSUR Acting on complaints filed by the Bangalore-based Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilition Centre and by Compassion Unlimited Plus Action, also of Bangalore, Mysore Division deputy conservator of forests Shashwati Mishra on October 28, 2008 seized three elephants from a Great Bombay Circus encampment in Mysore, due to alleged neglect of foot ailments.
Forestry department officials said they had decided to shift the elephants on the basis of a report submitted by veterinarians of the Mysore zoo, who had inquired into the matter, The Hindu said. The elephants were transported to Bannerghatta National Park for treatment.
The elephants were taken into custody 12 days after Kerala principal chief conservator of forests T.M. Manoharan seized a three-year-old elephant named Kannan from the Mavelikara Evoor Sri Krishna temple in Mavelikkara.
The plight of Kannan came to light last week when two youngsters captured on their mobile phone cameras scenes of mahouts brutally torturing the elephant, reported The Hindu. The visuals were passed on to TV channels and forests minister Binoy Viswom issued instructions for an enquiry.
Elephant Lovers Association secretary V.K. Venkitachalam told The Hindu that this was the first time the Kerala government had seized a temple elephant. The Kerala Forest & Wildlife Department in May 2008 announced that it would begin strictly enforcing regulations governing the use of elephants in parades and public ceremonies, after a series of incidents in which temple elephants ran amok, injuring bystanders. However, the department failed to intervene on behalf of a six-year-old elephant who died at the Thiruvambadi temple on June 17, 2008. The Elephant Lovers Association alleged that this elephant was tortured by mahouts in the name of training much as Kannan was.
The elephant seizures followed a September 2008 report by another Bangalore charity, the Asian Nature & Conservation Foundation, that more than 15% of the captive elephants in India are suffering from mostly untreated tuberculosis. Veterinarian Jacob Cheeran examined phlegm samples swabbed from the trunks of 387 captive elephants in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, finding that 59 samples tested positive.
In these states, there are approximately 1,000 captive elephants in all, Cheeran told the Times of India. The largest percentage of TB-affected elephants were in temples, Cheernan continued. Of the 63 temple elephants we studied, 16 were suffering from TB. Of the 160 privately owned elephants, 24 had TB. Of the 164 owned by the forest departments of the various states, 19 had TB.
Arnon Shimshony, zoonotic diseases moderator for International Society for Infectious Diseases ProMED online bulletin board, pointed out that elephants may harbor and transmit either bovine TB or the human form of the disease. A previous researcher, Susan Mikota, reported to ProMED in July 2007 that while captive elephants in the U.S. typically contract the human form, those in Asia appear to be most often infected by sharing pastures with diseased cattle.