Since its commencement last year, the centre has cared for those elephants who have been ill-treated by private owners
Tiruchirapalli’s Elephant Rehabilitation and Rescue Centre (ERRC) is located at Marama Reddy Palayam, abbreviated as MR Palayam, a reserve forest that is 35 kilometres away from the city, on the Trichy-Chennai highway.
The centre was started three years ago. However, it became operational only when the Madras High Court directed the Tamil Nadu Forest Department to confiscate the private elephant, ‘Malachi’ in June 2019, when the pachyderm was found to have been made to beg on the streets.
The ERRC, developed at Rs 2 crore, is spread over 20 hectares. A life-size statue of a young elephant erected on the roadside near the entrance greets passers-by.
The centre has been provided with the necessary infrastructure required for the rehabilitation of elephants in distress. The ERRC accommodates and looks after sick and stressed elephants, with the due permission of the Central Zoo Authority of India.
Before the commencement of the centre, private owners who were found to misuse the animals, were fined, or their license was suspended according to the provisions of the Wild (Life) Protection Act, 1972. Now though, animals abused by private owners such as temple elephants, are given refuge in this centre.
The funds for maintaining the centre and the payment of animal caretakers, are provided by the state government.
A similar Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre functions under the control of the Bannerghatta Biological Park in Bengaluru. However, it provides refuge not only to elephants but also for other abused wild animals.
The elephants that are given shelter in the ERRC at MR Palayam, are provided with the best healthcare facilities in a natural environment. The centre is located in the forest, about a kilometre away from the highway.
A bamboo kraal built for the animals at the centre. Photo: Tamil Nadu Forest Department
Unlike other centres, where visitors are allowed to watch and feed elephants, the ERRC is meant purely for rehabilitation purposes.
The elephants at ERRC are looked after by mahouts and cavadis (Assistants to the mahouts), deputed from Anamalai Tiger Reserve. Every elephant is taken care of by one mahout and one cavadi. A veterinary doctor from the Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University visits the centre weekly.
The elephants are taken to a human-made pond for bathing in the morning. They are then fed fresh fruits, vegetables, rice, barley, plantain, sugarcane and coconuts.
Afterwards, the animals go for a stroll through the 2,600-hectare reserve forest. On completion of their walk, the elephants and their handlers take rest under a specially made shelter. Every day, the elephants are given foot massage according to the instruction of the doctor.
A large shower facility also has been created at the centre. In addition to the grains, each elephant consumes 250 kilogram of fruit and vegetables daily.
The forest department has attempted to grow some food crops at the centre. A solid stable has also been developed for the animals to rest and relax during the day time.
Two percolation ponds have been created to harvest and store rainwater. Residential buildings for the Mahouts and Cavadis have been readied. Departmental quarters also have been built for the field staff that are in charge of the centre.
A veterinary hospital, kitchen, private walkway for the elephants and shed for the captive elephants have been constructed. The centre has the capacity of accommodating seven elephants at a time.
Closed Circuit Television cameras have been installed with special lighting arrangements for the safety of the jumbos. The maintenance cost of the pachyderms is expected to be around Rs 22,000 per day.
An elephant kraal has also been developed. Generally, the kraal is used to contain the restless behaviour of the newly-captured wild elephants. The bamboo structure will be strengthened, depending upon the requirement in the future.
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