Blames game in Pondy for death of temple elephant | Chennai News | News Bharat

Chennai: Within a day of the death of 30-year-old Lakshmi, the revered elephant at Puduchery’s Manakkula Vinayakar temple, a mudslinging has erupted between activists who allege how she was treated at the temple and devotees and mahouts who deny the allegations.
In the meantime, the police filed charges against the deputy forest guard in Puducherry and the mahouts concerned.
While activists argued that the elephant should not be fed soft drinks and Pongal daily, mahouts and right-wing activists blamed the foot rot disease on the forest department, which treated the elephant for over a month.
An autopsy was performed, and the report will be submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Forests. Puducherry may also call for a separate inquiry if deemed necessary.
A preliminary autopsy report states that the elephant died of shock and there were no signs of infection or major illness. “It’s a lifestyle and stress issue.”
The mahouts also told TOI that they fed the elephant with pongal made from gingelly oil every day and allowed devotees to feed it. “We cannot stop them,” mahout Senthil told TOI.
“A very friendly elephant simply trusted the wrong people to take care of him and the laws did not allow us to do much to save him,” the official said.
Foresters, on their part, said Puducherry does not have captive elephant management rules like Kerala or Tamil Nadu.
The administration can only follow the guidelines of Project Elephant and ensure that the animals are controlled and any mistreatment is recorded by the temple authorities.
Khushboo Gupta, Director of Advocacy Projects, PETA India, told TOI that they have filed a petition in Madras High Court in 2020, when the mahouts took the elephant back to its shed against the orders of the Forest Ministry.
“The elephant was in the Krishi Vigyan Kendra campus in an almost natural environment. However, they took it back citing the then Chief Minister’s letter. The petition is still under consideration,” she said.

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