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A decorated temple elephant at the Kamakshi Amman temple, Kanchipuram.

Temple elephants are a vital part of many temple ceremonies and festivals in India, particularly in South India. Many major temples own elephants; others hire or are donated elephants during the festive seasons. It is estimated that India has an elephant population of about 80,000; of this, about 550 are domesticated elephants that live in Kerala, the southern Indian state. The Indian elephant population has actually decreased from around 100,000 at the early part of the 20th century; widespread poaching of adult male elephants for ivory has wiped out entire herds, leading to trauma among the younger elephants.

The largest elephant farm in India is Punnathurkotta of Guruvayoor Temple, and has about four dozen domesticated elephants.

Gallery on elephants

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