After many years of what could only be described as torturous confinement, Mariappan, a 23-year-old male elephant who had been kept chained in abysmal conditions inside a dark shed at the Arulmigu Mariamman Temple in Samayapuram, has been permanently moved to his birthplace. Mariappan was initially moved to Arignar Anna Zoological Park in Vandalur and now to Anamalai Tiger Reserve, where he was born. After 17 years of separation, he recently met his mother and has made many new elephant friends.
The move is the result of a campaign led by local activist Radha Swami and assisted by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India. Also indispensable was the work and cooperation of the Forest Department of Tamil Nadu. Since 2002, temple authorities kept Mariappan chained by all four legs.
He could not take even a single step in any direction. In January 2011, his shackles were finally removed and he was transported from the temple to a spacious compound at Arignar Anna Zoological Park. “The difference between Mariappan’s cruel confinement in chains at the temple and his new life of freedom, love and care is night and day”, says PETA India Director of Veterinary Affairs Dr Manilal Valliyate. Like Mariappan, elephants at Alagar Kovil Temple and Suchindram Temple have been moved to the elephant camps under the care of the Forest Department.
The elephant at the Salem Sugavaneswarar temple has not been moved and is still under the custody of the temple management. The government is now being strongly encouraged to take action quickly on behalf of other temple elephants in Tamil Nadu who need to be rescued and rehabilitated.