A temple in India's southern state of Kerala has replaced an elephant with a life-sized mechanical robot to help devotees conduct rituals in a “cruelty-free” manner.
The Irinjadappilly Sri Krishna Temple in Thrissur district on Sunday inaugurated the robotic elephant in an effort to reduce animal cruelty.
The 11-feet-tall mechanical animal has been named Irinjadapilly Raman by the temple authorities. Made of an iron frame and rubber coating, the 800kg elephant was donated by People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India with the support of actor Parvathy Thiruvothu.
Raman can flap its ears, and move its eyes and tails.
The elephant was also caparisoned for a Nadayiruthal ceremony (a ritual offering elephants to the deity) on Sunday.
The move comes just a few months before Thrissur Pooram – an annual Hindu festival popular for the elephant parade in a temple.
The animal rights group said most elephants in captivity in India are being held "illegally" or have been transported to a different state without permission.
Kerala is reportedly home to nearly 2,500 captive elephants.
Captive elephants have killed 526 people in Kerala alone in a period of 15 years, according to figures compiled by the Heritage Animal Task Force.
Thechikkottukavu Ramachandran, a temple elephant kept in captivity for about 40 years, has reportedly killed 13 individuals – six mahouts, four women, and three elephants.
Temple priest Rajkumar Namboothiri said the temple authorities were "happy" to receive the mechanical elephant and hoped that other temples will soon follow suit.
“In the last few years, the temple has stopped that practice considering the high cost of getting a pachyderm and the growing incidents of elephants turning violent during festivals,” he was quoted by The Indian Express as saying.
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