Pongal feast for elephants at Top Slip 

Jumbos' day:Children get close to Abhinaya, a ten-year-old female elephant, which was brought to the Kozhikamudhi camp from the Aringar Anna Zoological Park, during the 'Elephant Pongal', at Topslip in the Anaimalai Tiger Reserve, near Pollachi, on Saturday. (Right) The pachyderms lined up for the Pongal—Photos: K. Ananthan.  

Ten-year-old Abhinaya was the centre of attraction at the Elephant Pongal celebrations organised at Top Slip near Pollachi on Saturday.

The elephant, brought to the camp at Kozhikamudhi, near Top Slip in Anaimalai Tiger Reserve (ATR), stole the show by her naughty behaviour making the other elephants jealous, pointed out the mahouts and ‘cavadis' (assistants).

Children and family were charmed by the activities of the female elephant from the Aringar Anna Zoological Park, Vandalur in Chennai. Tourists were allowed to go closer to the elephants and take pictures.

The other 13 elephants present were Bharani (27), Nanjan (51), Ramu (42), Kalpana (32), Mariyappan (24), Pari (31), Vikram (14), Selvi (52), Sivagami (61), Vijayalakshmi (59) and Durga (17). Other elephants which could not attend the celebrations due to health problems were Kaleem (45), Surya (38), Venkatesh (28), Kapil Dev (29), Rajvardhan (13) and Suyambu (14). Valli (67) and Saradha (57) had already retired from their service and did not participate.

The Pongal was prepared in 13 separate pots and were fed to the elephants. District Collector T.N. Hariharan, ATR Deputy Director A. Thiagarajan, Forest Range Officer (Ulandi) V.A. Saravanan, Range Officer (Pollachi) K. Ganesh Ram took turn to give sweet Pongal to the elephants. Tourists also offered sugarcane, coconut and bananas to the elephants.

After the feeding, the elephants were taken out in procession and were lined up at the lawn. Earlier, they were given wash at Kozhikamudhi elephant camp, where a special rejuvenation camp was in progress. Accompanied by mahouts, the elephants walked nearly nine km to reach the Top Slip. Pierre Robinson and Lucie, both from Canada, were so much thrilled by the participation of children and women in the celebrations and their care for animals. “This is the first time that we are seeing elephants and that too a special festival for them is quite fascinating,” added Lucie.

Later, all the tourists were served sweet Pongal. Organisers said that the celebration was organised to keep the people informed about elephants and the need to protect them for their role in ecological protection.