TN govt notifies captive elephants rules

Chennai: Long subjected to various forms of abuse such as being paraded on streets for begging and beating and kicking by mahuts, captive elephants in Tamil Nadu are to get royal treatment with the government specifying stringent norms, including a `retirement` age of 60, for their upkeep.

The Tamil Nadu Captive Elephants (Management and Maintenance) Rules, 2011 notified recently by the state government seek to ensure proper care of elephants, accorded highest protection under Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972. As per the rules, an exhaustive list of do`s and dont`s for the caretakers, parading of elephants around streets and other places for begging or any other mean purposes is prohibited so as putting them to work while in musth.

Beating, kicking, over-riding, over-driving, over-loading, torturing or treating any tusker will tantamount to cruelty while nylon ropes or chains and hobbles with spikes should not be used for tying them. As for retirement, 60 years will be the age. "Provided that healthy elephants above sixty years of age may be allowed to put to light work under proper health certificate from the veterinarian and with previous permission of Chief Wildlife Warden," the rules, notified in the gazette on Thursday, said.

The jumbos will follow the `five days work a week` chart and they shall be in rest completely during monsoon. An elephant in musth shall not be put to any work and they shall be fed as per the direction of the veterinary surgeon.

Focussing on the hygiene issues, the rules stipulate that the jumbos should be kept in the bathing pool for not less than three hours while bathing. Their mahout should scrub and clean the elephant body with coconut scrap "properly." And in case of the animal falling sick or injured or "unduly stressed" or pregnant, the mahout shall report the condition to the owner or temple authority who in turn shall consult a veterinarian for `expeditious` treatment.

The rules also warrant routine physical examination including parasitic checks regularly and administration of preventive medicines including vaccination against anthrax and annual health check ups. Now, one cannot donate diseased elephants to temples. Such offerings should be accepted only after obtaining prior permission of the Chief Wildlife Warden.

To ensure professional handling of the elephants, the rules require a minimum three years experience for mahouts and cavadies who will also have to undergo "compulsory" training at the Arignar Anna Zoological Park on city outskirts.

Above all, the owner should ensure that the mahout and cavady "are not alcoholic" and house the majestic animals in "clean and healthy environment. Elephants should not be kept on any hard surface for long periods. The tethering area should necessarily have earth and sand for "proper foot care." When the pachyderms are transported, they shall not be made to walk more than 30 km a day and for distances more than 50 km, they should be taken in a vehicle.