Kottoor elephant centre all set to get major facelift

Pinarayi to launch construction of the ₹108-crore KIIFB-funded expansion project on June 23

June 03, 2019 12:46 am | Updated 12:47 am IST - THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

The State’s desire to establish an elephant rescue and rehabilitation centre of international standards is all set to become a reality at Kappukad near Kottoor in the district.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan will formally launch the construction of the ₹108-crore Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB)-funded expansion project at the elephant rehabilitation centre on June 23.

Elaborate facilities have been envisaged for housing 50 elephants, of which the enclosure for 35 jumbos will be constructed during the first phase of the project that is expected to be completed by June 2021, when the facility will then be thrown open to the public. In all, there will be 24 enclosures for housing elephants according to their social grouping pattern in the wild.

Separately, the centre will also have a hand rearing centre for calf elephants, the first-of-its-kind in the State. The highly-sterile facility will be utilised to nurture baby elephants rescued from the wild and to ensure continuous supervision, according to K.J. Varughese, special officer for the project.

Its other features will include a musth management centre that will provide cool interiors for elephants during their musth period. Significantly, the scientifically-designed locale facilitate a marked shift from the current practice when elephants in musth were often tethered to trees or poles in open spaces. A speciality veterinary centre that will have three veterinarians, including a resident veterinary surgeons will be another highlight. Paramedical staff will also be roped in on deputation from the Animal Husbandry Department at a later stage to boost the functioning of the veterinary centre.

Apartments will also be constructed to accommodate 80 mahouts and their families within the premises of the elephant rehabilitation centre. Other components of the project included elephant proof fencing in the outer periphery that encompasses 176 hectares of forest land, large water retention ponds, an elephant natural history museum, cottages for visitors, convention centre and amphitheatre.

A kitchen complex for elephant feed preparation, feeding centre and a gas-based crematorium are also part of the project.

Check dams

Mr. Varughese added that two check dams will be constructed in the Neyyar reservoir during the second phase of the project to ensure year-long water availability for elephants. Currently, the elephants in Kappukadu were required to walk around 750 metres daily for their water needs, considering the receding water level in the reservoir.

The various project components were chalked out by an expert group that comprised elephant experts, architects, civil engineers, landscape planners, horticulturists and others.

According to Mr. Varughese, the centre will also serve to house elephants that are captured from the man-animal conflict areas and those rescued from private owners for violating the norms of upkeep and maintenance.

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