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Samayapuram temple elephant tramples mahout to death

Kept in confines:Masini, the temple elephant which trampled its mahout to death in Tiruchi on Friday.A. muralitharanA_MURALITHARAN

The elephant of Arulmigu Samayapuram Mariamman Temple near here turned belligerent and trampled its mahout to death on the temple premises on Friday. Following the incident, the temple was closed for the day.

The female elephant, ‘Masini,’ donated by former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa in 2016, turned violent suddenly even as devotees were visiting the temple on a Friday morning, triggering a scare. Its mahout, G.Gajendran (45) of Mahalikudi near Samayapuram, made desperate attempts to keep it under control. But the elephant unleashed its fury on the mahout by trampling him to death outside the main shrine.

Panic-stricken devotees took to heels, leading to a near stampede. A couple of devotees sustained injuries while trying to flee.

The incident occurred at around 10.30 a.m. when the 10-year-old elephant was brought to a spot between the inner praharam and the exit point on the western side. The mahout and his son, acting as his assistant, were near the pachyderm.

The agitated animal kept kicking the body for some time after his death, leaving the temple staff and devotees in a state of shock. Harried temple staff closed the western exit point, but could not get near the elephant. Mahouts from nearby temples rushed to the spot to try and calm down the animal and help remove the mahout's body. Forest and police officials were present.

It was only after half past noon that the body of the mahout could be removed by mahouts and forest department officials. The animal was chained to a pillar with a nylon rope and chains.

“The incident happened within no time. I was sitting nearby when everyone starting fleeing and I fell down while trying to escape. People ran over me,” said a dazed P. Jayammal from Namakkal district, who had come along with her husband Periasamy to the temple.

Animal provoked?

Although it is not immediately clear as to what triggered the animal’s wild behaviour, Murugan, Joint Director, Animal Husbandry, Tiruchi, said the animal could have been provoked. A team of veterinary doctors and forest department officials along with mahouts gave the animal a wash and fed it with bundles of sugar cane and water melons. The animal calmed down and was normal thereafter, said Mr. Murugan, adding that it would be kept under observation and examined by another veterinary doctor.

District Forest Officer D.Sujatha said the reason for the elephant’s behaviour could not be specified immediately. According to the information they had been getting from the district level Captive Elephant Welfare Committee, the elephant had been behaving normally.

A temple priest said the elephant was “like a child and friendly”. It was brought every day to the temple where it would stay for couple of hours.

The temple remained closed for the day following the incident and would reopen on Saturday after ‘parihara poojas,’ official sources said.

Masini, an orphaned calf, was shifted to the temple from Mudumalai Elephant Camp in 2016 in an ill-advised move and it could be very difficult to fully domesticate it by any mahout, a section of wildlife activists feel.

In 2011, a 23-year-old male elephant, Mariappan, of the temple was shifted to the Arignar Anna Zoological Park in Chennai after it turned restive and unpredictable. It had to be kept chained in shelter for several years before being shifted to the zoo.


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