Animal Welfare Board Advises Kerala Forest Department to Seize Abused Elephants Following Inspection

For Immediate Release:
20 April 2015

Manilal Valliyate; [email protected]

Central Government Agency Acts in Accordance With Directive of the High Court of Kerala

Thiruvananthapuram – The Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) has fired off an urgent advisory to the Kerala forest department asking it to seize and transport two abused elephants – Shivasankaran at Parassala Mahadeva Temple and Kannan at Neyyattinkara Sreekrishna Temple – who are currently under the custody of Travancore Devaswom Board, to safety, as per the directive of the High Court of Kerala. On 10 April, the court, upon reviewing an inspection report of the elephants prepared by experts authorized by the AWBI, in response to a writ petition filed by People for Animals (PFA) Thiruvananthapuram, directed the AWBI to render all assistance and medical advice necessary to the forest department so that appropriate measures may be taken to move the elephants to a suitable environment.

Advocate Gopinath Menon of Menon & Pai, who represented PFA in the matter, strongly argued that based on the AWBI report, both central and state laws were being violated and urgent action needed to be taken to save the animals.

The AWBI inspection revealed that elephant Shivasankaran is suffering from a painful, severely infected wound on the hind leg and a rusted thick chain that is embedded into his flesh, while elephant Kannan is severely emaciated and suffering from physical deformities and physiological deficits. In their advisory, the AWBI stated that the Kerala forest department must immediately and permanently move the elephants to a sanctuary where they could be unchained, receive much-needed veterinary treatment, be able to move about freely and enjoy the company of other elephants and express other natural behaviour of their species.

“Shivasankaran and Kannan, who have known nothing but hideous abuse, need rescuing now, without delay, so that they can get the care they so desperately need and deserve”, says People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India CEO Poorva Joshipura. “The Kerala High Court and the AWBI have spoken, and if anyone stands in the way of their compassionate orders to bring relief to these vulnerable elephants, they will be prolonging the animals’ suffering.”

“It’s a pity that the common people, NGOs and other well wishers have to spend their time, money and energy to make the responsible officials do their duty, for which they are paid salaries. Last week a Gaur who strayed into Adimaly town was ordered to be shot down. Before that it was tigers. Orders to kill wild animals will come within seconds. But it will take years for an order to save the life of an abused animal! We are extremely happy on the court verdict and hope justice is served to the suffering elephants immediately”, says Leela Lathif, the secretary of PFA Thiruvananthapuram and the petitioner in the case.

The abuse of Shivasankaran and Kannan highlights the scandal that is growing over the way elephants used by Kerala’s temples for festival parades and religious ceremonies are being housed and mistreated. Frequently controlled through beatings and prodded and struck in sensitive areas, such as behind their knees and ears, with an ankus (a spear-like hooked iron weapon), they often languish without veterinary care, sustain leg injuries and are overworked and denied adequate food, water and shade. Many elephants at Kerala’s temples, including Shivasankaran and Kannan, also show signs of severe psychological distress – such as repetitive swaying, head-bobbing and weaving – behaviour not found in healthy elephants in nature. According to figures compiled by the Heritage Animal Task Force, captive elephants killed 526 people in 15 years in Kerala alone. The reports of increasing numbers of elephant attacks during temple festivals and parades and the recent findings of the AWBI inspection of the elephants under the care of the Travancore Devaswom Board have proved beyond a doubt that cruelty is inherent in keeping elephants in captivity and forcing them to perform acts that are not natural to them.

The High Court of Kerala order and the AWBI’s advisory to Kerala officials are available upon request. For more information, please visit