The empty ‘Chyawanprash’ containers near the makeshift kitchen at the elephant camp say it all – that the elephants have been having a healthy, nutritious diet as prescribed by the veterinary doctors.
The camp managers say that the elephants get to have the nutritious diet twice a day – morning before bath and early evening, walk eight to 10 km on the walking track twice a day and have loads of green fodder. A few of these elephants also undergo special medication, if necessary.
‘Valli’, a female elephant from the Koodal Azhagar Perumal Koil, Madurai, and ‘Vedanayagi’ another female elephant from Bhavani, Erode, are two such elephants. Based on the veterinarians’ prescription, the managers are treating the two for foot rot disease.
The elephants get to immerse their legs in a decoction of seven chemicals, a traditional formula, to get over the problem. The foot rot sets in when the elephants are obese, or stand on hard surface or bitumen-topped roads for long with very little movement. Likewise, two other elephants are also undergoing eye treatment to overcome the ‘watery eye’ problem. This occurs when the elephants’ living atmosphere is hot. The managers say that the ingredients of the food and the quantity given to the elephants vary from one to another and are dependent on the age and gender. Based on the two, a body-mass-index of sorts is derived and that determines the food and the quantity.
Right at the start of the camp, the managers have noted down the weight of each elephant. This will be compared to the weight that they will record when the elephants exit the camp around the second week of January.
The managers say that one import factor in the camp is giving green fodder, which the elephants get in plenty in the camp. For the weak elephants, the camp managers give twigs of ‘aal’, ‘arasu’ ‘athi’ trees and also ‘koondapanai’.
The last is a favourite with the pachyderms. They add that the managers are also educating the mahouts and those accompanying the elephants on the ways to keep the animal healthy. This is because the mahouts are with the elephants 24x7. And also because the animal should continue to live in a healthy environment.