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Month-long annual holiday for elephants

Chennai Aug. 26. Elephants in Tamil Nadu temples will get a one-month holiday every year in the cool environs of a camp and be given special medical attention and nourishment. Also, a high-level committee of ministers and officials will soon visit Guruvayoor, Kerala, to study tusker maintenance there.

A week after an elephant in the Vaitheeswaran temple in Thanjavur district ran amuck, leading to the closure of the shrine for two days, the Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa, yesterday convened a meeting of officials and drew up plans for taking care of the 41 temple elephants.

The Chief Minister, in a statement here, said a health camp would be conducted for a month from this year. All 41 elephants would be brought to the camp and given special nourishing food and `rejuvenated'. The fund for the camp would be drawn from temples with surplus revenues.

Panel for upkeep

Ms. Jayalalithaa said she had ordered the setting up of a committee comprising the HR and CE Minister, P.C. Ramasamy, and the Environment Minister, P. Mohan, to study the upkeep of elephants at Guruvayoor and submit a report.

It would include the HR and CE and Forest and Environment Secretaries and the chief wildlife warden. Based on the committee report, an action plan would be drawn up for the camp, which would be held in a place with adequate water resources and suitable climate. Mahouts would be trained in treating the pachyderms with kindness. A coordination committee comprising officials of the HR and CE and Forest departments would be set up to protect the animals.

The Chief Minister also ordered that elephants be engaged in work only for a specific period and for not long hours daily and that they be kept in the shade, on lawns and mud floor on the temple premises, without causing any wound or scratch in their legs. Recalling that she ordered the rehabilitation of an elephant, which was found begging on the streets of Mylapore here, Ms. Jayalalithaa said ``It is our duty to protect all animals. Especially, protecting the elephant, which is the largest land animal and most helpful to humans, is our important duty,'' she said.

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