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Exclusives - 06 June, 2020

Wild elephants in Kerala a luckier lot compared to captive ones

Kerala has reported the death of as many as 533 wild elephants in the past five years in its forests, which have around 6,000 elephants... #DeathsofWildElephantsinKerala

The death of as many as 533 wild elephants, including natural and unnatural, was reported in the past five years in the forests of Kerala, which have around 6,000 elephants.

Thiruvananthapuram: Even as the tragic death of an elephant in Palakkad has created a national uproar, wild elephants are still relatively the luckier lot in Kerala, the God’s Own Country, despite the treacherous perils in the forest, when compared to their captive counterparts.

The mortality rate of wild elephants in Kerala is just 1-2 per cent. But, when it comes to captive elephants, the mortality rate is 4-5 per cent although animals in captivity have more longevity.

The death of as many as 533 wild elephants, including natural and unnatural, was reported in the past five years in the forests of Kerala, which have around 6,000 elephants. At the same time, the death of 122 out of 500 captive elephants was reported during this period in the state.

According to data with Forest Department, among the 533 tuskers who died in Kerala in the past five years, 44 died due to poaching, electrocution, collision with vehicles and explosives.

In 2019, the state witnessed the death of six elephants due to accidental electrocution and two by deliberate electrocution, four fatalities due to train accident, seven due to contagious diseases, one each by hunting and road accident, and 14 due to other unnatural and unknown reasons. As many as 84 deaths were due to natural reasons. Even after close to 120 deaths, the death rate of wild elephants is still below 2 per cent.

Speaking to TNIE, Jacob V Cheeran, professor in Veterinary Pharmacology and Toxicology (Retd) and elephant expert, said “In the wild, the life expectancy of elephants is normally around 60 years, while in captivity the life expectancy of captive elephants has touched even 80 in the state. There are two sides to this issue. One is that captive elephant management has a lot of inherent issues including over-exploitation, which are yet to be addressed properly. Second, in the wild, there are a lot of unreported cases due to the complexities involved in the process.”

PS Easa, former director of the Kerala Forest Research Institute, said it’s true there are a lot of management issues for captive elephants. The death rate of wild elephants is stable considering its population in the state, while it is a matter of concern in the case of captive ones. Whatever steps were taken by various agencies, including state government, captive elephants are a money-spinning industry for many.

A forest officer said in normal circumstances wild elephant herds abandon calves with genetic disorders as part of raising a pure breed. So, the number of deaths has to be high naturally. But it’s also equally important to note that there are a lot of unreported cases in the wild. In the case of captive elephants, none would disagree that there are still a lot of grey areas in their management in Kerala, he said.

Source: Express News Service

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