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Last Updated Thursday May 24 2018 08:48 AM IST

Elephant fury: when gentle giants turn restive, unpredictable

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Elephant fury: when gentle giants turn restive, unpredictable

Alappuzha: This happened a few years ago. A female elephant brought on lease to parade in a local temple festival in Kozhikode suddenly turned violent and was aggressive for no specific reason. Captive jumbos running amok, terrorizing entire towns and villages during temple festivals are common in Kerala. But this animal did something horrid and unthinkable. She first picked up the mahout in her trunk and smashed him on the ground before ripping the body into pieces and chewing on them.

This spine-chilling incident was narrated by an expert attached to the elephant squad of the state forest department. “After that many mahouts were scared to go near elephants in captivity,” he said.

According to him, the recent incident in Alappuzha where an elephant bit off a man’s hand while he fed it bananas may seem a one-off accident, but people who have followed their lives closely assert that angry elephants could respond in bizarre ways.

The mahout’s hand was bitten off by the jumbo while he was feeding the animal. When the animal sunk its teeth into his right hand, he might have suddenly tried to pull his hand out. Probably, his arm got severed when the animal pushed his down, he said.

Elephants’ teeth are large, grinding molars that help them chew up and digest tough plant materials such as palm and coconut leaves and raw sugar cane. It is the incisors that eventually become tusks as they grow into full-grown adults. They have four molars with one molar conforming to each half of the upper and lower jaw respectively like train bogies. An elephant would have six sets of molars during its lifetime and as each tooth wears out through grinding, another tooth replaces it.

Most of the temple festivals in Kerala are being held in the months of February to April. If the elephant owners, contractors, and the mahouts ensure that the provisions of the Kerala Captive Elephants (Management and Maintenance) Rules 2003, are implemented properly, no animal would turn violent during ceremonial processions, pointed out experts.

According to them, these animals should not be used to parade in festivals when they are under 'musth' (heat) or show signs of panic and fatigue. Using elephants with a history of unruly behavior for festivals to make some easy money increases the risk. They should be fed well and provided drinking water before being paraded. More importantly, they should be shackled in chains while being marched through crowded areas.

Law enforcers need to ensure that mahouts are not under the influence of alcohol and the rules and guidelines for use of elephants in temple festivals and ceremonies are strictly followed, added the experts.

Read: Latest Kerala News

The opinions expressed here do not reflect those of Malayala Manorama. Legal action under the IT Act will be taken against those making derogatory and obscene statements.

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