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A day within the lifetime of an elephant and its mahout at Theppakadu camp in Mudumalai

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On World Elephant Day (August 12), meet the mahouts of the 105-year-old Theppakadu camp at Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, famend for working with rescued battle animals

On World Elephant Day (August 12), meet the mahouts of the 105-year-old Theppakadu camp at Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, famend for working with rescued battle animals

Wasim’s trunk pauses midair as he reaches for a bamboo shoot. His mahout, M Eswaran, calls out a command from a distance and in a cut up second, the elephant adjustments course. The shoot is much from his attain, and hangs above a slippery clump of grass: Eswaran had alerted his elephant.

The 28 elephants of Tamil Nadu Forest Division’s Theppakadu camp at Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR) within the Nilgiris, are cared for by among the nation’s most skilled mahouts, lots of whom have remodeled the lives of their elephants.  

Camp elephants are used to drive away wild elephants that stray into human habitation, capture problematic elephants, in during de-weeding drives in the forest and patrolling

Camp elephants are used to drive away wild elephants that stray into human habitation, seize problematic elephants, in throughout de-weeding drives within the forest and patrolling
| Picture Credit score: Sathyamoorthy M

Camp elephants encompass rescued and captured battle animals, which might be then tamed and skilled by a mahout. “They help us in mitigating man-animal battle,” says R Chandana Raju, the Forester is in-charge of the camp, which was established in 1917 by the British. “We use them to drive away wild elephants that stray into human habitation, seize problematic elephants throughout de-weeding drives within the forest and patrolling,” he says, because the animals trundle into the camp after a protracted day one wet afternoon.

Mahouts have transformed the lives of their elephants  

Mahouts have remodeled the lives of their elephants  
| Picture Credit score: Sathyamoorthy M

Gently does it

Now, these elephants are pushed by a way of objective. “It’s a mahout who both makes or breaks an elephant,” 55-year-old M Kirumaaran tells us. He’s answerable for Moorthy, as soon as a formidable animal that triggered the dying of over 22 individuals within the area. Moorthy was captured in 1998, and Kirumaaran has been with him for 12 years. In the present day, he’s so mild that Kirumaaran even lets his grandchildren play with him.

“It took loads of endurance and coaching,” he says, “Moorthy was headstrong in his preliminary days. If taken to the river for a shower, he wouldn’t come out regardless of how a lot I attempted. I bear in mind standing with him for 2 full hours as he lolled within the water,” remembers Kirumaaran. Finally, Moorthy listened.

M Kirumaaran with Moorthy, who is so gentle that Kirumaaran even lets his grandchildren play with him

M Kirumaaran with Moorthy, who’s so mild that Kirumaaran even lets his grandchildren play with him
| Picture Credit score: Sathyamoorthy M

In the present day, a number of mahouts look as much as Kirumaaran and his strategies. In elephant operations, he changed metallic chains used to seize elephants, with rope that’s gentler on the toes. He has three kids, and admits to loving Moorthy extra. “I name my son day by day to verify on Moorthy if I’m away,” he says. “If I see him after a number of days’ break, I first provide him a sugarcane; Moorthy accepts it, nods, and grunts softly.”

Wasim, the star kumki, with his mahout Eswaran

Wasim, the star kumki, along with his mahout Eswaran
| Picture Credit score: Sathyamoorthy M

Threat is a part of the job description. Eswaran says Wasim, a star kumki on the camp, has harm him thrice. “He was in musth [heat] then,” he factors out. “He wouldn’t have finished it in any other case.”

Mahouts bathe their animals, feed and allow them to graze. The important thing facet of their function, nonetheless, is to be emotionally out there for his or her elephants. “They need to perceive us,” Kirumaran factors out. “And so should we.”

K Shakthi tends to his elephant Indhar with a lot more concentration since the elephant is blind

Okay Shakthi tends to his elephant Indhar with much more focus for the reason that elephant is blind
| Picture Credit score: Sathyamoorthy M

Okay Shakthi, retired elephant Indhar’s mahout, works with much more focus than the others. For, his elephant is blind.

Indhar is 71 years outdated; Shakthi is Indhar’s eyes. He watches over each transfer the animal makes. “Take into consideration this like caring for a child,” says the 38-year-old, including that he pays consideration to small particulars, together with guaranteeing there’s selection within the leaves Indhar grabs when he grazes so that he’s not bored. “I stick with him wherever he goes since he can’t defend himself if wild elephants assault him,” explains Shakthi. “It should be onerous to depend upon somebody for every little thing…” says Shakthi taking a look at his elephant tenderly.

Theppakadu Elephant Camp has 28 elephants, 23 mahouts, and 33 cavadys (assistants)

Theppakadu Elephant Camp has 28 elephants, 23 mahouts, and 33 cavadys (assistants)
| Picture Credit score: Sathyamoorthy M

Of Chennai roots

Mahout B Maaran plans to settle in Chennai after his retirement. “My spouse is from there,” says the 59-year-old, including, “Moreover, it was in Chennai that I first began out as a mahout.” He was 22 years outdated then and was deputed to the Arignar Anna Zoological Park in Vandalur when it was inaugurated by the then Chief Minister M G Ramachandran in 1985. He travelled with an elephant from the camp in a truck for nearly 16 hours to the zoo at Vandalur. It was fairly a journey. “I used to be anxious about how the elephant would behave,” remembers Maaran, who then spent 15 years with the elephant on the zoo.

Camp elephants’ meals consist of cooked rice, ragi, horse gram, coconuts, jaggery, and sugarcane

Camp elephants’ meals encompass cooked rice, ragi, horse gram, coconuts, jaggery, and sugarcane
| Picture Credit score: Sathyamoorthy M

Maaran has cared for 9 elephants up to now: Anna, the tusker; Rana, the noisy one; Baskar, the possessive one…however his favorite is Bhama, the oldest elephant on the camp, he’s at present answerable for. “She as soon as by accident hit my nostril along with her tail and I needed to spend every week on the hospital,” says Maaran. As quickly as he got here residence, he rushed to see her. “I knew she would have seemed for me,” he says. Maaran is retiring subsequent yr. He will get emotional on the very point out of retirement. He shortly wipes his tears and says, “There’s another yr of service left.”

Mahouts bathe their animals, feed and let them graze. The key aspect of their role, however, is to be emotionally available for their elephants 

Mahouts bathe their animals, feed and allow them to graze. The important thing facet of their function, nonetheless, is to be emotionally out there for his or her elephants 
| Picture Credit score: Sathyamoorthy M

A day on the camp

The Theppakadu Elephant Camp has 28 elephants, 23 mahouts, and 33 cavadys (assistants)

In keeping with D Venkatesh, Conservator of Forests and Subject Director, Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, the camp is the oldest one in South India. The British established it to coach elephants to hold timber for the reason that area is dominated by teak and rosewood.

Mahouts listed here are from indigenous Malasar, Kurumba, and Kattunayakar tribal communities

A typical day on the camp begins at 6am when the animals go for an hour-long tub on the Moyar river, after which they arrive for breakfast at 8.30am. Their meals encompass cooked rice, ragi, horse gram, coconuts, jaggery, and sugarcane. They graze the close by forest patch by the day, and get loads of relaxation. They’ve one other tub within the river within the night, adopted by a meal. The elephants then retire for the day.

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