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Wednesday, February 26, 2020

sad ! Gajaratnam Guruvayur Padmanabhan is no more !!

I love elephants ! ~ and today’s news on a Guruvayur elephant makes me sad. Elephants have always attracted me.  For ages, temple elephants have been a vital part of temple ceremonies and festivals especially in South India. In Kerala, they have a pride of place – as evidenced by the Pooram festivals or the Punnathur kotta, the place for temple elephants at Guruvayoor.

The old saying “elephant in the room” implies that there is an issue that is so obvious and serious that it is easier to pretend it does not exist than actually do something about it.  African elephants are the largest land animals on Earth. They are slightly larger than their Asian cousins and can be identified by their larger ears that look somewhat like the continent of Africa. Asian elephants have smaller, rounded ears.

Elephant ears radiate heat to help keep these large animals cool, but sometimes the African heat is too much. Elephants are fond of water and enjoy showering by sucking water into their trunks and spraying it all over themselves. Afterwards, they often spray their skin with a protective coating of dust. An elephant's trunk is actually a long nose used for smelling, breathing, trumpeting, drinking, and also for grabbing things—especially a potential meal. The trunk alone contains about 100,000 different muscles.  Both male and female African elephants have tusks they use to dig for food and water and strip bark from trees. Males use the tusks to battle one another, but the ivory has also attracted violence of a far more dangerous sort. Because ivory is so valuable to some humans, many elephants have been killed for their tusks. This trade is illegal today, but it has not been completely eliminated, and some African elephant populations remain endangered.

Sadly, Botswana held its first auction of licenses to hunt elephants  since President Mokgweetsi Masisi lifted a five-year ban on the controversial practice in May  2019. Masisi's government has argued that legal hunting is necessary to reduce conflict between elephants and humans, but some conservationists fear that reintroducing the practice could actually encourage more illegal poaching. The government was prepared to auction off seven hunting packages permitting the killing of ten elephants each. However, only six bidders were able to put down the reserve fee of 2 million pula ($181,000), according to Reuters. The packets were purchased by expedition operators who will sell them to trophy hunters at a markup, HuffPost explained. Most trophy hunters who come to southern Africa are from the U.S., and Botswana will allow foreign hunters to shoot 202 of its 272-elephant quota for the year, as well as to export the trophies. The hunting season will officially begin in April, according to The Washington Post. How sad !

Having failed to have a court declare chimpanzees to be persons entitled to habeas corpus protection, the Nonhuman Rights Project next tried the same thing with an elephant named Happy, that — not who — is held in her own pen at the Bronx Zoo due to behavioral conflicts with other elephants. This case also just failed. But before we applaud and say, “Well, of course,” it is clear that New York Supreme Court (the name of the trial court in that state) Justice Alison Y. Tuitt only dismissed the case because she felt bound by precedent.  Justice Tuitt clearly wanted to declare Happy a “person.” Indeed, she took the time to quote from a non-binding statement in the above-referenced chimpanzee case by Court of Appeals Associate Judge Eugene M. Fahey, in which he mused: “To treat a chimpanzee as if he or she had no right to liberty protected by habeas corpus is to regard the chimpanzee as entirely lacking independent worth, as a mere resource for human use, a thing the value of which consists exclusively in its usefulness to others.”

After some wandering, gathering strength to read the news again ~ the sad news of passing away of a famed Guruvayur elephant.  An elephant credited with carrying the “Thidambu” -- the representation  of the presiding deity of Lord Krishna of Guruvayur Temple-- for several decades during temple rituals died today  at the age of 84, a top Gurvayur Devaswom official said.

The elephant named Guruvayur Padmanabhan, who gained the title of ‘Gajaratnam’ due to his attractive features like long trunk touching the ground and well-carved shape, died at 2.10 pm, Guruvayur Devaswom Chairman informed media.  He said the tusker had been undergoing treatment for the last few weeks after it suffered swelling on its body. With the death of Padmanabhan, the number of pachyderms in the elephant sanctuary managed by Guruvayur Devaswom has come down to 47, he said.

Padmanabhan, one of the oldest elephant in the captivity, was much sought after during the temple festivals across the state including famous Thrissur Pooram. He got the highest pay of Rs.2.22 lakh in 2014 for participating in famous Nenmara-Vellangi Vela festival in Palakkad district in 2004, temple officials said. The elephant was kept at Anakkotta (the elephant sanctuary) located in the vicinity of the Guruvayur Temple. The sanctuary managed by the Devaswom attracts several devotees and tourists visiting the temple town every year.

When Padmanabhan was brought to Guruvayur in 1954, there were only a few elephants there. He was presented to the Guruvayoor temple by two brothers from Ottapplam in 1954, temple officials said.

Sad to know the passing of the gentle giant Gajaratnam Guruvayur Padmanaban.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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