TAMIL NADU

Two elephants to skip Mettupalayam camp

Andal, an elephant at rejuvenation camp in Kurumbapatti Zoological Park, Salem, on Thursday.— PHOTO: E. LAKSHMI NARAYANAN  

Two elephants, including the elephant of Sri Sugavaneswarar Temple, will not be a part of the annual rejuvenation camp which commenced at Mettupalayam on Thursday, as they were ailing and found unfit to travel.

The other animal which will not go to Mettupalayam is Andal, the elephant formerly attached to Madurai Sri Kallazhagar Temple, and at present being taken care of at the Zoological Park at Kurumbapatti in the city.

Both the animals, however, will get the same daily workout, same type of treatment, nutritious diet, medicines and rest at their present confines itself.

District Collector K. Maharabushanam fed elephant Andal at the Zoological Park on Thursday, to mark the inauguration of the camp period.

The veterinary surgeons will regularly test Andal during the 48 day camp period.

The Forest Department will provide nutritious diet of sugar cane, plantains, coconuts, raw rice, jaggery, ragi, banana stem, horse gram etc, the Collector said.

S. Selvaraj, District Revenue Officer; D. Arun, Conservator of Forests; P. Jayabalan, District Forest Officer, were present.

While the Forest Department will take care of Andal, the HR and CE Department will take care of the welfare of the elephant attached to the Sri Sugavaneswarar Temple.

Staff Reporter adds from Coimbatore

There is a marginal drop in the number of elephants taking part in the annual rejuvenation camp for temple elephants, which began at Mettupalayam on Thursday.

Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Commissioner P. Dhanapal told The Hindu that of the 33 elephants in 31 temples in the State, 26 turned up for the camp.

There was poor attendance among elephants from the seven mutts, as only two of the nine came to Mettupalayam. This year, too, two elephants from Puducherry are taking part in the camp.

He said that Fathima Beevi (49), the lone elephant from a mosque that is attached to Nagore Dargah, could not be here this year as veterinarians had certified it as unfit to travel.

Ten-year-old Valli — from Thirukurungudi, Tirunelveli district — was the only one that was not brought for the camp as it refused to get into the vehicle.

“The other elephants were not here due to old age or ill-health,” the Commissioner said and added that the animals would get the treatment on par with their counterparts at the camp. Rs. 2 lakh each has been earmarked for these elephants.

The oldest participant in the 48-day annual rejuvenation camp at Mettupalayam is Kasthuri (48) of Thandayuthapani Temple, in Palani. Eight-year-old Sundaravalli Thayar of Kalalagar Temple, Alagarkoil, is the youngest.

On arrival, veterinarians checked if the jumbos were injured, before their weight was checked.

They will be served nutritious food twice a day.

Diet

The diet includes bio-boost tablets, liv 52, multivitamins, mineral mixture, protein powder, appetite boosters, salt, dates, turmeric and jaggery in addition to a stock of boiled rice, green gram, horse gram and 11 varieties of green fodder.

Arrangements

Special arrangements are in place for keeping wild elephants from entering the camp.

Solar fencing has been erected for a three kilometre stretch to separate the camp area from the nearby forest.

Forest personnel will be on the move on the road between the camp and forest to chase wild animals.

Five towers have been erected to monitor the animals in the camp.

Eight cameras have been installed and four more would soon be put to use.

A top HR&CE official said that this year the animals were tied at a slightly elevated place from the place — a few feet away from the place where they were tied last year — as the river that is nearby is flooding.

Heavy crowd

It was not difficult for the hundreds who thronged to see elephants at the camp to identify the best pals among the jumbos. Popularly cited among them were the veteran pair Dharmabal (43), of Thiruvayar, and Sivakami (45), of Thirupathur in Sivagangai district.

The other pair that could not go unnoticed was Lakshmi (20), of Tiruvannamalai, and Kothai (19), of Sriperumbudur.

Dharmabal’s mahout A. Bala said that the animal and Sivakami met during the first camp conducted in 2003 and that they have been friends since then.

It was tough for the officials and mahouts to separate their decade-long friends, who found the other and refused to part from them.

People staring at the animals did not prevent them from sharing their affection for the other.

The way they expressed their affection differed.

Lakshmi and Kothai, too, are decade-long friends, who met for the first time in 2004, continued dancing and hitting each other.

It went on even when they were lined up for the inaugural.

Dharmabal, who is known for being friendly with other elephants, shared some secrets into the ears of its new friend Swarnavalli (24) of Sivagangai.

Though it was too loud, the onlookers could not make out anything from the trumpeting and shrill sounds of joy.

Additional Chief Secretary Tourism, Culture and Religious Endowments Department R. Kannan said that two elephants participating in the camp were a mother and her daughter, while two others were sisters.

Other interesting sights that one could not miss were elephants stealing sugarcane, fruits and fodder from the elephants tied close to them and mahouts trying to keep the young and excited small elephants under control.

Some elephants shared their sugarcane sticks with their friends.

Blessings

Visitors took selfie with the elephants and also queued up to get the blessings of the temple elephants.

But, visitors will not be allowed near the elephants in the days to come as the purpose of the camp is to keep the animals free from humans.

Public can, however, have a look at the animals from a view point, when they bathe or have their morning walk.