THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The forest department’s plan to build special ambulances to transport elephants was met with an initial disappointment as no bidders turned up for the pre-bid meeting arranged on Wednesday. The plan is to build special trucks that can carry injured or ill elephants to rescue centres like the one at Kottoor.
“To be built on heavy-duty trucks, the idea is to ensure the safe transportation of elephants. The ambulance will help transport sick elephants, captive ones in case of violations and also to carry carcasses,” said K J Varghese, retired principal chief conservator of forests and special officer at Elephant Rehabilitation Centre at Kottoor.
As many as two such ambulances will be built. Earlier, the department had floated a tender and only one bid was submitted. Hence, the department tried to hold a pre-bidder meeting for truck body manufacturers to clear the doubts regarding the project ahead of the re-tendering process. However, no bidder turned up for the online meeting arranged by the department.
According to officials, there are apprehensions among vehicle makers over modifying and developing the customised truck, considering the technicalities involved and the amount allocated. The project is being funded through Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board.
The ambulance will be built in such a manner that it has adequate facilities to keep water and fodder for elephants, and also seating arrangements for mahouts. A camera will be fixed to let the driver have an eye on the elephant. “The driver can always monitor the elephant. This helps during navigation and while making sharp turns,” said Varghese.
The speed of the truck will be set at 30-40 kmph.
“The ambulance will always be accompanied by a team of vets,” he added. The rear door of the vehicle will act as the ramp through which the elephant can enter or alight the vehicle. The new ambulances will be an upgraded version of the already running ones in Wayanad.
Two such ambulances have been functioning since 2014 in the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary. “While they can cater to the needs of Wayanad and other northern districts, the new ambulances can be used in southern districts. Private individuals can avail of the facility by paying fees,” said Saju S Nair, assistant conservator of the Elephant Rehabilitation Centre.