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Kumki elephants reach Coimbatore with a mission

V.S. Palaniappan
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Special duty:A kumki (trained) elephant Nanjan (51) at a camp near Coimbatore on Sunday.Photo: K.Ananthan
Special duty:A kumki (trained) elephant Nanjan (51) at a camp near Coimbatore on Sunday.Photo: K.Ananthan

Two kumki elephants Nanjan (51) and Pari (31), from the Forest Department’s elephant camp at Kozhikamudhi near Top Slip in Anamalai Tiger Reserve (ATR), reached Chadivayal near Kovai Coutrallam at the foothills of Siruvani in the small hours of Sunday.

The Department has established a kumki camp at Coimbatore, the first one to be held in the plains, at a cost of Rs. 58 lakh, as part of a Rs. 4.36 crore animal-human conflict mitigation measure.

The animals arrived amid mild showers and were accompanied by its mahouts and cavadis Vijayan and Kumar for Pari and Prasad and Raman for Nanjan. The transportation of the elephants, right from 7 p.m. at Kozhikamudhi till Chadivayal at around 2 a.m., was done under the supervision by Forester-in-charge of elephants at Top Slip, Muralidharan.

The Department has already stocked ragi, kollu, rice, salt, jaggery, coconut besides green fodder such as sugarcane and coconut tree leaves for the elephants besides mineral and vitamin mixture for the camp’s new-comers, said Range Officer M.S. Parthiban and Forest Veterinarian N.S. Manoharan.

Conservator of Forests, Coimbatore Circle, V.T. Kandasamy and District Forest Officer V. Thirunavukkarasu said that the decision to set up a kumki camp was to ensure instant and swift reaction in the event of animal-human conflict situations. Earlier, the Department brought kumkis from either Mudumalai or Anamalai forests in the hills which involved logistics and time-consuming. The Coimbatore Forest Division has a 315 km boundary of which nearly 250 km is identified as conflict prone. At present, Elephant Proof Trenches (EPT) are available for a length of 98 km. Trenches need to be dug along another 150 km to prevent straying of elephants into human habitations.

The other mitigation measures include creation of waterholes and fodder banks to prevent the straying of elephants into human habitations besides the kumki camp to remain in preparedness to respond to human-animal conflict. The camp is located on a 20-hectare area. The facilities created now include four housing quarters for mahouts and cavadis, a kitchen, storeroom, sheds for elephants, trucks and water supply provisions, stock of medicines, grocery, vessels, and LPG provision to cook food.

From July 4, the kumkis will be on a mission to combat the conflict situations after Forest Minister K.T. Pachamal formally declares the camp open. During non-conflict periods, Nanjan and Pari will be utilised for elephant safaris to entertain tourists visiting Kovai Coutrallam.

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