VELLORE: Amirthi Forest is likely to become one of the locations where rejuvenation camps for temple jumbos will be held, as the Mudumalai camp faced several logistical hurdles related to the transportation of elephants from across Tamil Nadu. According to an official from the district forest office, a lot of human labour and transportation cost is involved in gathering jumbos from across the state and bringing them to Mudhumalai every year. As a result, the chief wildlife office is in the process of identifying several new locations in Tamil Nadu in order to hold the camps locally instead of a centralised rejuvenation camp at Mudumalai. Besides reducing the cost of transportation, the journey to a local camp will be less tedious for the elephants. The idea will also popularise the woods identified for the camps and help turn them into tourist hotspots.
A source stated that Amirthi Forest has been short listed as a probable location for one of the jumbo rejuvenation camps and that district forest officers (DFOs) from the state have been asked to study the condition of the forests that fall within their jurisdiction and submit a ‘Field Assessment Report’ within the next two days.
The forest conditions in Vellore are similar to those in Mudumallai with the temperature being moderate and cool except during the rains between October and December when it can turn cold. This year, the elephants have reportedly adapted well to the weather conditions in Mudumalai. The official said that a flat piece of land of at least five hectares is needed for a gathering of around 15 elephants. However, accommodation for both elephants and the two mahouts accompanying them, a wholesome diet for the elephants, a medical team, and the availability of a secluded spot to prevent contact with other wild animals also need to be considered while finalising the camp, he said.
The source stated that while Amirthi satisfies most of these conditions, the lack of running water required to bathe and clean the jumbos is an issue. With rains being the primary source of water, setting up a camp here would involve the building of check dams at a cost of `25 lakh within a few months.
If Amirthi is chosen, it is estimated that between 10 and 15 elephants from temples in nearby districts like Kancheepuram, Villupuram and Tiruvannamalai, besides Vellore will be brought.
Forests in Hognekkal and the Kaveri delta were also being considered as probable locations for the camps.