Thiruvananthapuram: The Animal Welfare Board of India, on the basis of an evaluation visit to Guruvayur, has asked Guruvayur Devaswom to urgently shift the 59 elephants under its care to an area at least five times the size of Punnathur Kotta. As of now, the elephants are housed in a space of 18.5 acres. The recommended space is 90 acres.
“Since elephants are closely housed in a small area, the three tonnes of garbage – both excreta and food waste - generated daily has rendered the place unhygienic. The elephants as a result are existing in an unhealthy environment,” the AWBI notes in a missive sent to the Guruvayur Devaswom.
AWBI has also directed the Devaswom to remove garbage, dung and food waste on an emergency basis and in a scientific manner. “There is no question of allowing these animals to be housed in such a small area,” said Subarna B Ganguly, who along with Dr Arun Jha made the evaluation visit and prepared the interim report.
Besides space, the Board has also asked the Devaswom to provide more rest and leisure time for its elephants. For this, it wants visiting hours to Punnathur Kotta to be restricted to six hours.
Currently visitors are permitted to be on campus for over 10 hours. “Elephants not in ‘musth’, not handicapped or not in ill-health should be made to walk for one hour in the morning and evening within the grounds. The presence of public is a huge impediment to their walking and movement, integral to their basic physical and psychological welfare,” the Board said in its directive.
It stated that elephants in musth should not be exposed to the public because their stress levels are significantly higher than normal. The AWBI also wants elephants above the age of 60 to be retired. “The oldest elephant, Guruvayur Ramachandran, is 71 and he is used for festivals. His popularity cannot be used as an excuse to overwork him,” Ms Ganguly said.