Thursday, 16 May 2019

How Rogue elephant Thechikottukavu Ramachandran, who has a huge Facebook followers, has turned violent?

Onmanorama - Manoramaonline

Kerala’s star tusker Ramachandran has been in news ever since his  arrival  from Bihar in 1982. He has  been a regular participant in  what is called Thrissur Poorum, the most  popular  annual temple extravaganza that attracts lakhs of people every year in the month of May.  This year it was held on the 13th and 14th of May.  Thechikottukavu Ramachandran, also nick named  \Raman  has become a subject of serious discussion and talk in the media in Kerala long before the beginning of Pooram festival.  Elephant Raman grabbed more attention than the media reports/discussion on pre-poll election predictions as to which party or parties would form the ministry at Delhi. The controversy is about  the animal's  erratic and violent behavior and his fitness to take part in the festival.  There are as many as 600 captive elephants attached to the Kerala temple. Believe it or not Ramachandran, the tallest tusker,  has  a Facebook page that is followed by over 16,000 people.
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That till  2019 Thechikottukavu Ramachandran  has killed 14 people, three elephants and injured hundreds of people is a sad track record that has made the officials to put yet another  ban on his presence in the festival.  Despite his rogue behavior and infamy,  Raman has won the heart of  countless people across  Kerala  and the reason being he is partially blind and  turned aggressive due to repeated torture and cruelty by the mahouts. Blind in one eye, the other eye  is affected by cataract, that needs to be removed soon, the animal gets the sympathy from the compassionate people.  The District officials put a ban on the  54-year old elephant's participation in the festival  in view of public safety.  However,  Elephant Owners Association and fans of this tusker  wanted the ban on the elephant removed. In the past elephant Raman was  banned at least six times   and the present ban became a necessity after  he trampled to death two people in February this year near Thrissur.
Thechikottukavu Ramachandran Telegraph India

Born and  raised in Bihar as  Moti Prasad, he was brought to Kerala in 1982 by one K.N. Venkatidri, an elephant contractor. The new owner renamed the elephant as Ganeshan and put a mahout to take care of the  tusker.  Soon the ownership changed,  the Peramangalam Thechikottukavu temple Devaswom bought the elephant from  Venkatidri.  The temple Devaswom renamed him Ramachandran and used him for temple festivals and puja rituals. 
Perhaps, you may be wondering why the elephant was partially blind. Until he came down to Kerala,  Ramachndran had a good eyesight. It is a matter of deep pain and sorrow it was here the elephant lost sight in one of his eyes. Having been trained to respond to commands in Hindi and 
Bhojpuri,  the mahout, who only knew Malayalam language, was unable to make the elephant understand his command.   The mahout  could have  been patient with the elephant, instead he lost his temper and, in rage, he hit the animal in the eye with a sharp object, making it blind in that left  eye. Though with a blind  left eye and a sensitive right eye  that causes him agitation upon seeing the huge crowd, it is Ramachandran who kick-started the 2019 Poorum festival  by pushing open a giant door at the Vadakkumnathan (Lord Shiva) temple in Thrissur,  and then picked his way through a sea of worshippers and spectators without causing any mishap. 


While training the elephant, world over ''torture'' is used  to discipline it and there is a limit to it. Since most of the mahouts are not well educated and be familiar with animal behaviour, they use  crude torture methods as a way to discipline the huge elephant and to understand their  commands. When an elephant undergoes training with  different mahouts. it causes them  additional strains and nightmares because mahouts follow their own methods of torture to train the animal. As for the animal, under a new mahout he goes through the torture cycle all over, causing fear and confusion. The animal becomes defencive and, in course of time, becomes violent and aggressive. To subdue them and obey, the  mahouts hit them, wound them, and then hit them on the wounds again. The wounds will not heal causing infections. The painful infections make them edgy.

According to Dr Gopakumar, a veterinary surgeon  who pays particular attention to elephants, they  immobilised  it by chains creating wounds on its legs and the wounds remain unhealed. Torture of animals by mahouts, lack of rest and proper food,  adequate water (elephants need 150 to 250 liters of water a day), denial of frequent medical care and  treatment, long walk under the hot sun on the  hard asphalt road and most importantly  making them stand for long hours at temple ceremonies were identified as the immediate causes for many captive elephants turning violent.
Yet another biological problem is musth - a periodic condition 
Elephant with musth Safari Guide Online - WordPress.com

in bull (male) elephants, characterised by highly
aggressive behavior and accompanied by a large rise in reproductive hormones. Testosterone levels in an elephant in musth can be as much as 6 times greater than in the same elephant at other times.  Scientists say musth alone can not be a factor for elephant's violent behavior. Even quiet and placid elephants become highly violent irritable  toward humans and other elephants during musth.  During pre-musth (pre-rutting) stage the elephants needed rest, cool surroundings, lot of water to drink, special diet, etc. Normally, when people and crowds stand nearby, the elephant can become nervous and the din associated with urban areas may complicate the matter.

Normally every year lots of temple festivals take place in Kerala between January and May. Perhaps, it may the cruelest months for the pachyderms, not so for the Elephant owners and Mahouts.  During this time, there is a great demand for the elephants as they  are being rented out for various temple functions across Kerala  for a heft sum ranging from  Rs 30,000 to Rs 1,00,000 a day, depending on the elephants' track record. The elephant owners, mahouts, contractors  are the main culprits, having vested interests in the over-exploitation of these innocent pachyderms for their personal gains at the cost of animal's health and risking public safety.  

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So, it is the money-minded humans that turn the captive elephants violent  and aggressive. Many vets advise the Kerala government not to parade the animals during the festival time and there must be time  and day restrictions. Some elephants are paraded more than 40 times out of 60 days.  As for Ramachandran, as he has seen nothing but violent mahouts who were his trainers. since his arrival in Kerala with one blind eye, his behaviour in public places saw a different change. He loses his temperament and goes on rampage  with a view to safeguarding him from noisy crowd and cruel mahouts. Longhours of work, poor resting period, over-torture and the resultant fatigue made him public-shy.  According to Sreedevi  “The elephant  (Raman) was paraded between 10 and 30 times even after the ban'came to force in February 2019''. To the elephant owners and others the animals are money-spinning machines. A gross violation of government rules goes on without a break!!