26 January, 2021

The Weight Of Tradition

The elephant, a cultural icon, is sadly acquiring killer status

A.S. Satheesh
The Weight Of Tradition

As the drumbeats reach a crescendo in temples across Kerala, with the festive season coming into its own, tragic tales of elephants goring their mahouts to death are casting a shadow on the revelries. There have always been stray incidents of the odd tusker running amok, squashing roadside shops and overturning vehicles, but the pattern emerging now is far more disturbing: these intelligent, sensitive animals are turning serial killers.

In a state that has the country’s largest population of captive elephants—702 is the official figure—there has recently been a spate of instances of desperate elephants violently, and repeatedly, retaliating against ill-treatment by their handlers and owners, or venting their frustration on the public.

Last month, four people were killed in such incidents. Three of them were mahouts. An elephant that goes by the name of Mullakal Balakrishnan and belongs to the Travancore Devaswom Board, a quasi-government body, vent his fury on his own mahout and killed him after another tusker...



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