“Fifteen Hundred captives were cooped up in a shed built to accommodate probably 200 at the most. We were cold and hungry and there was not enough room for everyone to squat on the bare ground, let alone to lie down. One five-ounce piece of bread was our only food in four days.”
A holocaust survivor, Dr. Viktor Frankl, painstakingly chronicles this horrific scene at the Auschwitz extermination camp in his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning“. He recalls the Nazis captured approximately 1.5 million people, mostly Jews, forced them to travel by train for several days and nights, then stuffed them into a tiny room, with nine prisoners sharing a bunker and two sheets.
A similar concentration camp for elephants exists in the southern Indian state of Kerala, where 45 captives are crammed into 12 acres of land. They are tethered beneath the scorching sun at 45°C, languishing in their urine and excrement, and deprived of their basic primordial needs. Most of them were illegally captured wild elephants from the northeastern states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, and Bihar, and sold to the Kerala elephant owners during the annual “Sonpur Mela” festival that takes place every November.
This is the world’s most notorious elephant prison, called “Punnathur Kotta,” aka the “Guruvayur Captive Elephant Sanctuary.” It is adjacent to the UNESCO World Heritage Site – the Guruvayur Temple. Tourists from around the world travel here, many having been led to believe that the elephants at this concentration camp are happy and well cared for. They are oblivious to the dark truth behind the shackled elephants and their weaving motions.
Although many reviews on Tripadvisor from local people glorify this “sanctuary,” the most recent post in November 2021 affords a one-star rating by a U.K. visitor. Entitled “Nothing but a prison for distressed elephants,” it paints the harsh realities that elephants suffer.
This is an extract from the book “Gods in Shackles: What Elephants Can Teach Us About Empathy, Resilience, and Freedom” by Sangita Iyer and available for purchase on Amazon. Lead Image Source : Elephant in a “sanctuary”.