Human-Captive elephant relationships in Kerala: Historical perspectives and current scenarios

Publication Type:

Journal Articles


Gajah, Volume 50, p.29-35 (2019)



In this paper, we have attempted to provide a preliminary understanding of the centuries-old tradition of elephants being kept in captivity in the state of Kerala and the gradual cultural transformations – from an initial reverence as living forms of lord Ganesha through being status symbols of the landed gentry to celebrities with ardent fan following in contemporary social media – that have changed the nature of their relationship with the local communities with the passage of time. The recent past has witnessed a deterioration of the traditional elephant-mahout relationship, the age-old knowledge of elephant biology and behaviour and their welfare increasingly jeopardised in recent times. Increasing commercialisation of pageantries has led to heightened conflict incidents in captivity and untimely mortalities. An exhaustive understanding of different aspects of captive elephant maintenance is warranted, to ensure better welfare practices.