Suffering, Lonely Elephant in Puducherry Temple Must be Rehabiliated at a Sanctuary, Says Animal-Welfare Board

For Immediate Release:
8 June 2015

Dr Manilal Valliyate +91 9910817382; [email protected]
Sachin Bangera +91 9820122561; [email protected]

AWBI Inspection Prompted by Complaints From PETA India Finds Lakshmi the Elephant Suffering From Psychosis and Foot Rot

Puducherry – An inspection by the government body Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), prompted by complaints filed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India, revealed that Lakshmi, the elephant at the Sri Manakula Vinayagar Temple, is suffering physically and psychologically as a result of being kept constantly chained on a barren concrete floor. According to the report, Lakshmi constantly sways back and forth, which is a sign of mental distress and severe frustration. She suffers from severely painful foot rot on all four feet and has wounds on her body from constantly rubbing against chains and the hard concrete walls and floors of her cell. And despite her obvious pain, she is forced to work at the temple, begging and blessing devotees, for several hours every day. A mahout (handler) constantly threatens Lakshmi with an ankus – a weapon with a metal hook at one end – to force her to obey. Noting that these conditions violate the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, and the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, the AWBI has recommended that the Chief Wildlife Warden of the Government of Puducherry rescue Lakshmi from the temple and send her to a sanctuary where she can be unchained and receive much needed veterinary care and rehabilitation.

“A life chained up alone in a tiny, barren concrete cell is no life at all for an elephant, as her injuries and mental distress illustrate”, says PETA India Director of Veterinary Affairs Dr Manilal Valliyate. “PETA India is calling for this elephant to be sent to a lush sanctuary where she would finally have space to roam, the companionship of other elephants and the veterinary care she so desperately requires.”

AWBI’s report further notes that the temple has no legal right to keep Lakshmi, as she was purchased illegally in 1997. It also points out that Lakshmi is not screened for infections and contagious diseases such as tuberculosis, which is common in elephants and transmissible to humans even without direct contact – placing tourists and temple devotees at risk.

Concern over the abuse of Lakshmi highlights how interest in the way elephants used in Indian temples to represent the Hindu god Ganesha are being housed and mistreated is growing. Frequently controlled through beatings and prodded and gouged in sensitive areas behind their knees and ears with an ankus, they often languish without veterinary care for serious conditions, sustain leg injuries and are fed unsuitable food. Many elephants at Indian temples also show signs of severe psychological distress – such as swaying, head-bobbing and weaving – behaviour not found in healthy elephants in nature. Frustrated captive elephants commonly harm or kill their mahouts or others around them.

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