Malasar tribesmen of the Anamalai hills in Tamil Nadu, who are known for taking up the job of elephant men for the Forest Department, have been chosen for the first ‘Gaj Gaurav Award’ instituted by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
According to the MoEFCC, Gaj Gaurav Award is given to recognize good practices adopted by captive elephant owners and outstanding works done by field officers, frontline staff and private custodians in elephant conservation.
As per a communication from K. Muthamizh Selvan, Scientist ‘E’ from Project Elephant Division of the MoEFCC to the Chief Wildlife Warden of Tamil Nadu, mahouts (elephant men) and cavadis (assistants) of Malasar tribal community in Kozhikamuthy and Varagaliar elephant camps of Pollachi Forest Division of the Anamalai Tiger Reserve (ATR) have been chosen for the award.
The award will be presented to the mahouts and cavadis from the tribal community during the World Elephant Day celebration to be held at the Periyar Elephant Reserve, Kerala, on August 12.
There are around 120 Malasar families living in and around Kozhikamuthy settlement in ATR and men from the community take up the job of capturing, taming and taking care of elephants for the Forest Department. They work in two camps of ATR, namely Kozhikamuthy and Varagaliar camps, which together have 26 camp elephants including kumkis (trained male elephants for special operations) at present.