Monday, September 04, 2006

Elephants' day out! Kerala fair criticised

The elephant fair in Thrissur is an inseparable part of Kerala's culture and tradition and attracts thousands of people as well as protests.

Animal lovers feel the fair violates the rules for elephants in captivity.

They are moving the Kerala High Court against the organisers, which include ministers, the district administration and forest officials.

More than 100 elephants from different temples participated in the fair, which was witnessed by thousands of people.

"It's an amazing sight only Thrissur can boast of. It's amazing and it is well organised," said a spectator.

"The tradition of keeping the culture is in Thrissur and I like Thrissur for this," added a foreign visitor.

The spectacular sight is possible only in Thrissur and that's perhaps why it is known as the E capital of Kerala. Over the past few years, the number of elephant lovers has grown manifold.

Animals ill-treated

For animal lovers, however, it was an unbearable sight. It was too hot for man or beast and even mahouts were sheltering in the elephants' shade.

"Elephants cannot be kept standing in scorching heat from 2:30 pm onwards to 6 pm. They are getting neither shelter nor water. They were also tethered in very sharp and short chains," said Animal Welfare Officer AG Babu of the Animal Welfare Board.

"We are going to complaint to the district collector and chief wildlife warden."

Animal lovers point out that the Forest Department had given an assurance in court that it would protect the animals against cruelty at such festivals, but it has failed to do so.

"We are going to proceed for contempt of court in the Kerala High Court within one week," said Venkatachalam, Elephant Lovers Society.

"The district collector, SP and conservators are people said to be protectors of elephants. But these officials are misusing their official status," he added.

While the opinion on holding such events is divided, what is undeniable is that authorities could be more sensitive and make sure the animals are not ill-treated.


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