The Coimbatore Forest Department on Sunday arrested the mahout of an elephant and his assistant on charges of beating up the animal at Thekkampatti village, near Mettupalayam town in Tamil Nadu, The Indian Express reported.
The two men attacked the elephant on the premises of an annual rejuvenation camp for temple and mutt elephants of the local Andal Temple, according to The Hindu. The two arrested were booked under sections of the Wildlife Prevention Act and for violating provisions under the Tamil Nadu Captive Elephants (Management and Rules), 2011.
In a video that went viral on the social media, the mahout Vinilkumar and his assistant Sivaprasad were seen brutally thrashing Jayamalyatha, an 18-year-old female elephant of the temple, with sticks. Volunteers of Vanam Trust of India, an animal welfare organisation, shot the incident when they were passing the camp.
“He [Vinilkumar] was taking the elephant to the shower area when it [the elephant] suddenly ran out of control after seeing another elephant,” another mahout at the camp told The Indian Express. Following this incident on Saturday evening, the two arrested tied the elephant to a tree and assaulted it with sticks.
As animal rights activists and other social media users called for action, the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department, which manages the administration of temples in Tamil Nadu, suspended Vinilkumar, The Hindu reported. The department will provide alternative arrangements for the elephant at the earliest and HR&CE Joint Commissioner for Coimbatore Zone R Senthilvelavan will further investigate into the matter.
The rejuvenation camp, which began on February 8, is a 48-day annual affair in which temple and mutt elephants from across Tamil Nadu are taking part.