Monday, 30th October 2017

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Kerala’s granny elephant bows out

Asia’s oldest captive jumbo dies

By K.M. Rakesh in Bangalore
  • Published 7.02.19, 6:56 PM
  • Updated 7.02.19, 6:56 PM
  • a min read
Dakshayani Picture by Kaviyoor Santhosh

Kerala lost its “granny elephant” and Asia’s oldest captive jumbo when 88-year-old Chengalloor Dakshayani collapsed on the temple premises in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday.

A star attraction at the Chengalloor Mahadeva temple for decades, Dakshayani suffered a bout of shivers and died around 3pm, bringing an end to an endearing chapter in Kerala’s tryst with an animal that has been intrinsic to the state’s culture.

Dakshayani had been one of the 519 captive elephants in the state, where no temple festival is complete without them. She was owned by the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), the government’s temple governing body for south Kerala.

The board had accorded the “Gaja Muthassi” (granny elephant) title on Dakshayani considering her age and popularity. In 2016, the Universal Records Forum, considered next only to the Guinness World Records, had certified her as Asia’s oldest elephant.

“She was very gentle and so attracted lot of people over the five decades of her stay at the Chengalloor Mahadeva temple,” TDB veterinary surgeon T. Rajeev told The Telegraph on Wednesday.

“She had been in good health all these years, but age had been catching up. Yesterday she had shivers and collapsed,” said the vet, who had been looking after Dakshayani for more than a decade.

She had been showing a lack of appetite for the last few days and had been put on a diet of pineapples and carrots to improve her metabolism.

Rajeev said captive elephants lived for 60 to 65 years. “She lived so long because of good care. We had stopped sending her to temple programmes three years ago considering her age,” he added.

Until then Dakshayani had been a star attraction at the annual festival at Padmanabhaswamy temple in the Kerala capital.

The post-mortem has said the cause of death was respiratory arrest.

The funeral was held on Wednesday evening, with the religious rituals attracting a large number of people.

Dakshayani had initially been owned by the erstwhile royal family of Travancore that had obtained her from the Konni elephant camp in Pathanamthitta when she was five.