In a major victory for the campaign of animal rights groups to end the mistreatment of captive elephants, the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court has ordered that no temple or private person in Tamil Nadu can acquire elephants anymore.

The HC also asked the government to decide on shifting all captive elephants in the state including those owned by temples and private individuals to government-run rehabilitation camps.


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Send all elephants to rehabilitation camps 

“The time has now come to take a call if all such elephants now in captivity (both temples and privately-owned) should be shifted to government rehabilitation camps. The secretary to the environment and forest department may coordinate with the secretary to the HR and CE department in this regard,” directed Justice G R Swaminathan on Tuesday.

Observing that in many temples, the elephants are housed in absolutely unacceptable conditions, the judge said concrete flooring, tin roofing, lack of freedom and poor supply of food made their lives hell. They are chained 24 hours a day. The drunk mahouts inflict terrible pain and cruelty on them. Separated from their natural family and unable to bear the torture, the poor animals do sometimes turn aggressive and violent, said Justice Swaminathan.


The case

The order came in a case filed by the forest department in the Madurai branch regarding the maintenance of a 60-year-old female elephant named Lalitha.

The single judge bench of the HC ordered that the elephant should not be separated from mahout and that the elephant should continue to be under mahout care.

Justice GR Swaminathan recently visited Lalitha with activists and found injuries on the jumbo’s body. He directed the District Collector of Virudhunagar to take care of the elephant with the help of the animal husbandry department.

“After the rescue, Lalitha will be transferred to the Government Elephant Rehabilitation Camp for lifelong care as the elephant is over 60 years old. He also referred to the first bench orders that elephants should no longer be purchased by private or religious institutions,” read the official notice.

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Plight of Jeymalyatha, a captive elephant

Last year, the plight of Jeymalyatha, a captive elephant made headlines after a video emerged showing it being tortured by mahouts inside a temple complex in Tamil Nadu.

The elephant had been kept in the illegal custody of the Srivilliputhur Nachiyar Thirukovil temple for over a decade and she is now at the nearby Krishnan Kovil temple.

PETA India

According to PETA India, the elephant is kept chained to the floor in the temple for nearly 16 hours a day and is subjected to torture with weapons, including pliers.

All captive elephants should be rehabilitated

Animal rights groups including PETA India have been advocating for the rehabilitation of all captive elephants in the country.


Khushboo Gupta, Director of Advocacy Projects at PETA India, recently told Indiatimes that the organisation was ready to guide and assist any temple or individual elephant owners to send their jumbos to sanctuaries for rehabilitation.

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