Coimbatore

Elephant camp kicks off at Thekkampatti

Elephants lined up at the Thekkampatti elephant rejuvenation camp.

Elephants lined up at the Thekkampatti elephant rejuvenation camp.   | Photo Credit: M. Periasamy

With the arrival of 26 elephants, the 12th annual rejuvenation camp for temple and mutt elephants in the State began on the banks of Thekkampatti near Mettupalayam in Coimbatore on Sunday.

Organised by the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Department, the camp will host 28 elephants, two of which will arrive here from Puducherry on Monday, HR&CE officials said.

HR&CE Commissioner K. Phanindra Reddy inaugurated the camp in the presence of HR&CE Joint Commissioner for Coimbatore Zone K. Rajamanickam, Revenue Divisional Officer, Coimbatore North, P. Suresh and other officials from the HR&CE Department. Following the inauguration, Mr. Reddy fed the decorated elephants with fruits.

The estimated cost of the 48-day-long rejuvenation camp is ₹1.5 crore, which will be borne by the State government, officials said. The camp will conclude on January 31, 2020.

Assistant Conservator of Forests M. Senthil Kumar said the Forest Department will set up eight watchtowers to monitor the camp. Foresters, forest guards and anti-poaching watchers will routinely inspect the camp every day in the mornings and evenings. “Vehicles, torch lights, walkie-talkies and fireworks have been provided by the HR&CE Department,” Mr. Kumar said. Electric fencing work around the camp site will be completed at the earliest, he added.

Of the 28 elephants, 21 are from temples in Tamil Nadu, five from mutts and two from temples in Puducherry. Though visitors were allowed to see the elephants up close on the first day, they will only be able to see them from outside the camp from Monday.

The camp, an initiative by former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, is being held at Thekkampatti since 2012. The first four camps, in 2003, 2004-05, 2005-06 and 2011-12, were held at Theppakadu in Mudumalai.

HR&CE officials said a diet plan had been prepared by veterinarians for the elephants, based on their weight and age. Their food at the camp will include green fodder, rice, ragi, green gram and horse gram, in addition to supplements like bio-boost tablets, liv-52 tablets, ayurvedic preparations and protein tablets. “On an average, an elephant consumes up to 300 kg of green fodder a day,” an official explained. Based on recommendations from veterinarians, vegetables and dates will be included in the diet.

Residents’ apprehension

Residents of Thekkampatti village panchayat continued voicing their apprehension about the camp being held in their village. Those who spoke to The Hindu alleged that every year, the camp attracted wild elephants, which destroyed banana plantations and coconut trees on agricultural land. The sudden inflow of visitors caused traffic issues in the village, its residents alleged.

Speaking to The Hindu, a resident said the villagers had staged a black flag protest in 2018 and had petitioned the authorities concerned multiple times. “No Minister has visited the camp this year. Even if we stage a protest, it will be of no use,” he said. The local body elections were another reason why the residents had chosen not to protest this time around, as it would make it difficult to conduct meetings involving political parties, an official said.

Responding to the allegations, Revenue Divisional Officer, Coimbatore North, P. Suresh said renovation of the roads in Thekkampatti will be carried out to prevent traffic congestion, and the Forest Department officials will monitor the entry of any wild elephants.

It is said that there is a proposal to conduct the elephant camp in another location, though this has not been confirmed. “The elephants are well-settled here,” Mr. Suresh said, noting that the climatic conditions of Thekkampatti are conducive for the rejuvenation camp.

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Printable version | Apr 1, 2020 8:38:38 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Coimbatore/elephant-camp-kicks-off-at-thekkampatti/article30314983.ece

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