The majestic Asian Elephant, more popularly known as the Indian Elephant, is the state animal of Kerala. One of the two broad categories of the largest land animal in the world (other being the African Elephant – consisting of African Bush Elephant & African Forest Elephant), Indian Elephant is also the prominent one amongst the recognised sub-species of Asian Elephant (Sri Lankan Elephant, Sumatran Elephant and Borneo Pygmy Elephant are the rest). Though smaller in terms of size, ears and tusk’s length when compared to their African counterparts, Indian Elephants scores in overall looks! Fully grown Indian Elephant can reach a maximum height of 11.5 feet and weigh up to 5000 kg. The gentle giant is a strict vegetarian, feeding on grass, leaves, bamboo, roots and also some fruits & flowers - consuming around 250 kg of food a day!
Elephants have been an integral part of Kerala’s culture & heritage since ancient times. Huge majestic-looking Elephants adorned every King’s prized possessions. Coat of Arms of former Kerala kingdoms (Travancore, Cochin) depicted Elephants. Even the modern state of Kerala acknowledges the role of Elephants in the state’s culture by incorporating them in the state’s symbol.
Right from earlier era, Elephants actively employed in temple duties and timber works - this still continues unchanged and now few are left in the wild. Almost all temples in Kerala have Elephants (mainly contributed by devotees as prized offerings). Notable among them is the famous Lord Krishna Temple at Guruvayur that possess more than 60 jumbos. Punnathur Kotta in Guruvayur is the world’s only Elephant Park. Elephants decorated with caparisons are the highlights of temple festivals and processions in Kerala.
For the people of Kerala, Elephant is the symbol of pride & elegance at all times. Majestic giants namely Guruvayur Kesavan, Guruvayur Padmanabhan, Pampadi Rajan ...etc, are help in high esteem by the Keralites. This is perhaps the only state where there are Fans Associations for Elephants! Despite all these aplomb, Indian Elephants’ population is decreasing due to poaching for tusks and habitat destruction by human encroachment. These gentle giants are now being treated as protected animals.