//Captive elephants may be deprived of sex life

Captive elephants may be deprived of sex life

Don Sebastian, Wednesday, February 08, 2006  00:02 IST

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: If pedantics have their way, captive elephants in Kerala would soon be deprived of their sex life. Citing ancient scriptures pertaining to elephant care, a handful of elephant lovers at least think that breeding elephants would spell doom for its owners.

Experts beg to differ. At a recent seminar on elephant care organised by the state wildlife department in Kochi, well-known veterinarians even sought regular breeding centres to keep the gene pool of the elephants intact. When almost all other states have camps to breed elephants, Kerala, despite its highly developed science for elephant care, buys them from other states.

“We need breeding centres for elephants in Kerala. Only 20 per cent of the captive elephants in the state are natives and the rest is from north and northeast India. If we have to preserve the genetic qualities of the legendary Kerala elephants, we have to breed them,” elephant expert KC Panicker told DNA.

As many of the elephants in Kerala come from Bihar or Assam, connoisseurs often complain of poor qualities.

Vasudevan Nambudiri of Guruvayur, who owns three tuskers, has strong reservations against breeding captive elephants.

“Hasti Ayurveda and Matangaleela proscribe rearing of pregnant elephants of cows with calves. It does not augur well for the owner of the elephant,” he said. He even cites the bad fortune befallen of his counterparts who allowed their elephants to mate.

“I personally feel we should not orchestrate the mating of elephants. They should be left on their own to follow their natural cycle and that is possible only in the forests. Our knowledge and experience have shown us that,” Nambudiri said.

The only way to acquire elephants is to capture them from the wilderness rather than breeding the captive ones, he said.

Panicker also advocates a natural process. “Elephants can’t mate in all seasons. The cow has to be in ‘heat’ once in four months. So continuous cohabitation is a must. My suggestion is to convert elephant camps in Thekkady and Kodanad to breeding centres, where cows can be let into the adjacent forest. They could either mate wild elephants or captive ones,” he said.

He thinks the objections to breed captive elephants are primarily due to the expenses involved. “A pregnant cow needs 21 months’ complete rest and two-and-half years’ post-natal care. During this time the elephant cannot be assigned any work and has to be given a special diet. Owners have to shell out more money on elephants and cannot expect them to do any work. That’s why they say such things. But the positive side is that they gain a calf,” he said.

Though proper data on captive elephants in Kerala is not available, its sex ratio shows alarming disparity. Guruvayur temple, which has over 60 elephants, houses only six cows.