A day after a female elephant trampled a mahout to death at an illegal elephant safari park at Kallar in Idukki district, the forest department on Friday ordered immediate closure of the park. Idukki ACF (Social Forestry) P K Vipindas has implemented the order and directed the owner to shift the elephant to Kottayam. Meanwhile, Forest Minister A K Saseendran directed the ACF (assistant conservator of forests) to probe the operations of illegal elephant safaris and take stringent action against them.

As per the databook, A H Jalaludeen, a resident of Erumeli in Kottayam district, is the owner of the elephant. However, the custodian of the elephant is P K Raveendran, a resident of Kanjirappally. The elephant, Lakshmi, is 53 years old and was kept at Kerala Farm in Anaviratty village of Devikulam taluk for safari. The owner of the farm is P P Bijesh, a resident of Koyilandy in Kozhikode.

The incident occurred at 6.30 pm on Thursday when the mahouts were trying to tether the elephant. The victim, M Balakrishnan, 62, of Neeleshwar in Kasaragod, was the assistant mahout of the elephant. According to eyewitnesses, the elephant trampled Balakrishnan, grabbed him with its trunk and threw him.

According to animal rights activist M N Jayachandran, Idukki is the only district in Kerala where elephant safari parks are operating. Though the Kerala High Court had banned elephant safari in 2020, the parks reopened a few months after closure.

"As per the Captive Elephant Management Rules, 2003, elephants can be used only for parading associated with religious functions, with permission from the district level monitoring committee. To use elephants for safari, the owner has to get a licence from the Animal Welfare Board of India. I have booked 11 cases against illegal elephant safaris in Idukki during the past two years. None of these safaris possess a valid licence," said ACF Vipindas.

"However, the rules do not specify penal action for using elephants for safari. The government has taken steps to amend the rules and a stakeholders' meeting will be held on June 26 to discuss the amendment," he said. None of the parks use male elephants for safari as it is risky. The female elephants are brought from other districts, for which the park owners enter into a contract with elephant owners.