Activist Rajeev N Kurup in Kerala has launched a petition asking the Forest Department there to quit its practice of capturing troublesome elephants, caging them and forcing the endangered animals into a life of submission.
What is happening in Kerala, according to Kurup, is very much like what we documented in Karnataka in "Elephants in the Coffee." What is surprising, perhaps, is how few elephants are being captured like this in Kerala.
Kurup writes, "In the last eight months, the Kerala Forest Department, caught not one, but three giant tuskers in various locations in the state, and is busy "training" them in order to convert these wild creatures to obedient slave elephants."
What we saw in Karnataka was capture on a much larger scale. The state got permission to capture 25 elephants in 2012, and sought capture of another 25 elephants in 2014. We saw 16 cages in Karnataka, usually four at each location.
What Kurup says about the future for elephants rings true: "The forest department along with people's representatives and local governing bodies, are developing strategies and hatching plans to capture many many more wild elephants and bring them into captivity."
Kurup is a tireless activist with a significant following. In a day, he gathered 2,000 signatures. The question, however, is what alternatives the Forest Department might seek when an elephant kills someone. The most direct answer is to capture and cage the animal.
More complex responses, such as working with farmers to promote co-existence, are much more difficult. And the solution preferred by some conservationists, to remove people from the lands where elephants roam, seems unlikely.
Dr. Thomas Grant
Professor of Journalism at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College