Kerala’s elephant lovers are agitated for the last two months. Their favourite pachyderm Thechikkotttukavu Ramachandran, the tallest captive elephant in Kerala, has been banned from being paraded in festival circuits in the state, since he killed two men on February 8.
On Saturday, the state’s cultural capital Thrissur witnessed a protest organised by the Kerala Festival Coordination Committee against the forest department directive banning Ramachandran at temple festivals. Ramachandran’s fans have created Facebook pages and social media groups to celebrate the star elephant and keep a tab on him.
During the annual Thrissur pooram, the largest cultural festival in Kerala, Ramachandran performs the ceremonial opening of the gate of the Vadakkumnathan temple.
The killings on February 8 were the latest attributed to the elephant, which has so far claimed 13 lives. After the killings, the forest department asked the elephant’s owner, Thechikkottukavu temple in Thrissur, to keep Ramachandran away from festivals and formed a committee to report on whether the elephant can be used during festivals.
The expert committee report found that the elephant was subjected to heavy workload and long-distance travel before it ran amok. The committee found that the elephant has a digestive problem and blindness in right eye, due to which it is suspicious of its surroundings and misbehaves at the slightest disturbances.
On March 26, the chief wildlife warden ordered that the elephant is not fully fit to be used in festivals and it is desirable to restrict the use of the animal even in Thrissur district for ensuring safety of the public and mahots.
The report triggered protests among elephant lovers, particularly fans of Ramachandran. Since then, fans have been active on WhatsApp groups and running a social media campaign against the decision.
Heritage Animal Task Force secretary V K Venkitachalam, who has complained to the forest department against parading Ramachandran, said, “It should have been banned much earlier. But taking out Ramachandran for parade would fetch a daily rent of Rs 2 lakh to Rs 3 lakh.”
K Rahul, convener of Kerala Elephant Owners Federation and Kerala Festival Co-ordination Committee, said the ban on Ramachandran would lead to the end of rituals at festivals in Kerala.