The park authorities feel that the elephant, if shifted, would find it difficult to survive in new surroundings. Maheswary, the senior-most inmate of the state-owned zoo was donated to the park by then Maharaja of Travancore in 1946, when she was around 10 years old. An attraction for visitors, especially for children for decades, Mahaswary is now in poor health and is on special diet and medicines with her teeth having worn out, according to park officials here.
The CZA order came at a time when the park here is building a special home for the jumbo in the sprawling compound at a cost of Rs 14 lakh in view of the special care required by the animal. "Her condition is so pathetic that she cannot eat anything by her own. She is fed with specially prepared food these days," Director of the Zoo, K Vijayakumari Amma, told reporters. Ever since she was brought to the zoo, the elephant has not seen the outside world. So she is certain to find it extremely difficult to herself to the new surroundings, if moved out, the official said.
Zoo officials have asked the state culture department to take up the matter with CZA to get Maheswary exempted from its directive. Thiruvananthapuram Zoo is the only animal park in the country that comes under the Cultural Department instead of the Forest Department. The zoo here has a tusker, Rajkumar, which is younger and in robust health, which could be handed over to the Wildlife Department.
According to Forest authorities, their plan is to rehabilitate the elephants from the zoo at a jumbo shelter under the department, which will have all the facilities for their upkeep. The CZA issued the order as most parks in the country lack sufficient space and facilities to keep the pachyderms in conditions conducive for such a large animal, according to state Wildlife Warden K P Ouseph.
"Elephant is a big animal. In most of the zoos they are not properly kept in their limited environs. Also, maintaining them is expensive," he said. The CZA order had said for want of space, the elephants were often kept in chains in zoos, affecting their physical and mental health. The safety of the people visiting the zoos was also cited as a reason for taking this decision. The jumbos get annoyed and can turn violent at times, compelling zoo keepers to keep them in chains for long.