Though keeping elephants without ownership certificates is an offense, as many as 393 captive tuskers are being kept without valid certification by temple managements and individuals in Kerala. While Thrissur district, which annually hosts the famed Thrissur Pooram, has 91 elephants sans ownership certificates, Kottayam has 71 jumbos without certification, followed by Kollam with 47 and Palakkad with 33. The figures were given by the state Forest Department in response to an RTI inquiry by the Thrissur-based animal campaigner Heritage Animal Task Force.
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Of the total 393 jumbos, 329 were tuskers, 60 female elephants and four 4 were makhna (male elephant without tusks), HATF secretary V K Venkatachalam said.
“As per the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, keeping an elephant without ownership certificate is a non bailable offense,” he noted. “Such a wildlife crime may fetch an imprisonment of seven years and a fine of Rs 25000. However, the state government has not arrested anyone for the past 69 years for continuing to commit such a serious crime,” the activist said. Besides individuals, ‘Devaswoms’, the state-run temple management bodies, also keep elephants without proper ownership certificates, Venkatachalam said quoting the figures.
While Travancore Devaswom has 32 elephants without any ownership certificate, Cochin Devaswam Board keeps 11 elephants without certification and Malabar Devaswom has two jumbos sans ownership documents, it said.
The unlawful custody of elephants would lead to torture of the animals, Venkatachalam said adding as many as 19 captive elephants died in the state so far this year due to alleged torture and negligence.