Satara District Administration Prohibits the Use of Elephants or Any Other Animals During Pal Temple Festival
For Immediate Release:
21 January 2016
Following a Woman’s Death and a Request by PETA, Temple Admits It Cannot Provide Adequate Elephant Care
Satara – The Deputy Collector of Satara district has issued an order prohibiting the use of elephants or any other animals on 20 and 21 January, including during the annual Pal temple festival, famously known as Khandoba Yatra. The order, issued under Section 144 of the Criminal Code of Procedures (CrPC), referred to last year’s horrific incident in which the temple’s former frustrated elephant Ramprasad ran amok after having powder thrown into his eyes, leading to the death of one woman and injuring three other people. Ramprasad was first relinquished to the Maharashtra Forest Department and then sent to Wildlife SOS Elephant Conservation and Care Centre in Mathura by the temple management. The order also expressed concern about the issues arising during the procession, particularly the congestion and the difficulties with crowd management and with parking vehicles, and it pointed out that, under such circumstances, were an elephant to stampede or retaliate, it would be difficult or impossible to control the situation. The order also pointed out that there would be a high probability of the occurrence of an unfortunate incident if elephants or any other animals were permitted in the procession and that the district administration does not have the resources to handle such a dangerous situation.
Ramprasad, who lost an ear following a faulty injection into a vein by a person lacking proper veterinary qualifications, was taken to the Pal temple at the age of 7 and kept isolated and in chains there for more than 20 years. PETA was able to identify numerous problems with his health: he was suffering from a chronic oozing abscess on his hindquarters, chronic and very painful foot rot, a deformed fetlock joint on his right foreleg caused by being forced to stand and lie down on hard concrete flooring, and mental distress expressed in the form of severe stereotypic behaviour – such as head-bobbing, swaying and weaving – as well as inadequate upkeep, maintenance and housing conditions. The Pal temple trustees signed an affidavit stating that they recognised that even with the best of intentions, the temple was unable to provide the elephant with basic necessities, including adequate space and freedom from shackles.
Worldwide, it is now being recognised that elephants deserve a better life, which has meant that captive elephants have been, and are being, released from cruel confinement elsewhere in India as well as in the United States, Europe and South America. Public opinion in India is quickly changing and no longer supports the kind of restrictions imposed on elephants used for begging, rituals and other human pursuits.
“PETA applauds the efforts of the Satara district administration to prevent cruelty to animals and to help ensure the safety of those attending the festival”, says PETA India Senior Manager for Veterinary Projects Dr Ashish Sutar. “PETA will be urging other districts in Maharashtra to follow this example by banning the use of elephants in festivals and other events. Lonely, abused and miserable elephants cannot give blessings – they can only curse what humanity has done to them. The public mood has shifted as we’ve learned more about the needs and desires of these magnificent animals, who long to be free of their chains.”
Although it’s illegal to beat and torture animals, elephants forced to participate in parades and processions are trained through physical punishment and the constant threat of being struck with a stick or an ankus (a weapon with a sharp metal hook on the end). Capturing an elephant is prohibited under the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, yet many captive elephants are thought to have been captured illegally in the wild, which PETA – whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment” – is working to stop.
Photographic evidence of Ramprasad’s former plight and the copy of the order are available upon request.
For more information about PETA India, please visit PETAIndia.com.