By Viju B.
As many as 224 temple elephants have gone 'missing' in the state in the past two years. The forest department has stumbled upon this shocking bit of statistics while compiling a data book of captive elephants in the state.
"We found this shortfall from an original data of 705 elephants compiled in 2010 while embedding microchips in them,'' said OP Kaler, additional principal conservator of forest (biodiversity cell). These microchips, meant to serve as an identity, had details like the location, date of birth, age, height and weight.
The data book, as mandated by the Kerala Captive Elephants (Management and Maintenance Rules, 2012), will have details like name, age, ownership and medical fitness of each elephant.
Forest officials are not ruling out the possibility of massive under-reporting by elephant owners and illegal transfer of ownership. They said even if the death of 60-odd elephants in the past two years is taken into account, there are over 150 elephants untraceable and it is a matter of great concern.
"It is a known fact that many elephant owners are reluctant to register their elephants because they will have to produce a fitness certificate and many of them are not medically fit to be part of any procession,'' an official said.
There is a huge demand for elephants for temple festivals, parades and tourism-related functions as there is a ban on bringing new elephants from other states. Many owners exploit this shortage, by making the elephants work for over 12-13 hours a day for over 8-10 months a year. More....