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Kerala HC Mandates 6-Foot Distance Between Elephants and Artists at Thrissur Pooram Festival for Safety

Kerala HC Mandates 6-Foot Distance Between Elephants and Artists at Thrissur Pooram Festival for Safety

The Kerala High Court has mandated a minimum distance of 6 feet to be maintained between elephants and performing artists during the upcoming Thrissur Pooram festival. This measure aims to prioritize the safety of both the majestic animals and the individuals involved in the festivities.

At the behest of Additional Advocate General Asok M Cherian, a special session was called, presided over by a division bench comprising Justices AK Jayasankaran Nambiar and Gopinath P. During this session, the bench issued specific guidelines regarding the utilization of elephants for the festival.

  • During parades, elephants must maintain a minimum distance of 6 meters from percussion artists or any other performers.
  • In light of the intense heat in Kerala, 'Thevetti' (fire torches) must be positioned at least 6 meters away from the elephants. Only a minimal number of authorized individuals, as determined by the organizers, will be allowed into this designated open area, strictly on a need-to basis. No other individuals will be permitted to enter this zone. It's important to note that these instructions do not apply to individuals required to stand directly behind the elephants during the 'Kudamattam' ritual.
  • The Principal Chief Conservator (Wildlife) and Chief Wildlife Warden of Kerala are directed to deploy Rapid Response Teams (RRT) to address any unforeseen incidents. Elephant Squads or volunteers, if engaged by the organizers, will solely assist the RRT and operate strictly under the instructions of RRT officials.
  • Under no circumstances will Elephant Squads utilize devices like a 'capture belt'. Additionally, no equipment that may cause harm or injury to the captive elephant, or result in any form of maiming, shall be employed.

The Thrissur Pooram, held annually in the Thrissur district, is a temple festival celebrated on the Pooram day of the Malayalam month of Medam. This year, it is set to commence on April 19. Renowned for its elaborate showcases of adorned elephants, ornate parasols, and vibrant percussion music, the festival is a spectacle of cultural splendor.

The court's directive was issued in a case concerning animal welfare matters within the state. During the latest hearings, the Bench emphasized the importance of ensuring the safe participation of elephants in festivals, prioritizing the well-being of both the majestic creatures and the attendees and performers.

Building upon previous court directives, the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) and Chief Wildlife Warden issued a circular implementing further restrictions. These measures were formulated considering the prevailing weather conditions in the State and in response to recurring incidents of captive elephants going out of control.

On Monday, the Additional Advocate General petitioned the bench to permit a new circular, which was granted. Furthermore, the bench issued the aforementioned directives. Previously, the bench had mandated the submission of fitness certificates for every elephant intended for participation in the festival. However, this requirement was not fulfilled due to certain delays.

Hence, the Bench ordered that the verification and issuance of fitness certificates must be completed by April 18, adhering to the provisions outlined in the Kerala Captive Elephant Management Rules of 2012.


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