The Forest Department’s proposal to leave around 40 tamed elephants back in forests has kicked up a row.
Last week, a group of mahouts and kavadis went on strike protesting the decision. Their contention was that they would lose their jobs if these elephants, which they have been looking after for many years, are sent back to forest.
Besides, they said they have developed an emotional attachment with these pachyderms.
However, they called off the stir after local forest officials explained to them that the move is only a proposal and no official order has been issued to this effect.
Recently, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) G S Prabhu had told reporters that the Forest Department is planning to send 40 elephants from various elephant camps in the State to forests as these animals need to learn to live in forests rather than in camps.
With not much physical work in these camps, the pachyderms were not accustomed to living in the wild and feeding themselves. At present, they were fed sumptuous food twice a day.
He had said that the department was spending Rs 3 lakh on each elephant per year including expenses on food and the salary of mahouts and kavadis.
There are 91 tamed elephants in various camps like Mattigodu, Sakrebail, D B Kuppe and Balle.
These tamed jumbos were once wild elephants. They had been brought to the camps and trained by mahouts and kavadis.
Mattigodu in Kodagu district has the highest number of elephants when compared to other camps.
On 91 elephants, the department is incurring an expenditure of around `2.7 crore annually.
In the light of this, the department has plans to leave tamed elephants into forests in a phased manner, he had said.
Fear of Losing Job ‘Unfounded’
Prabhu told Express that the fear of mahouts and kavadis that they would be removed from the job is totally ‘unfounded’.
He said that department has no such plans as it is facing a severe shortage of skilled mahouts and kavadis.
“Our idea is that the elephants have to live in forests and feed themselves without depending on the food being given in the camps. We are not stopping the food immediately and sending all elephants at one go.”
“The elephants are sensitive and emotionally attached to their trainers. Even if we leave them into forests, they will come back to the camps in search of their mahouts and kavadis. They will slowly adjust to forests if they start living in the wild. The jumbos are born wild and they are brought to the camps for certain reasons. But it was not a good idea to keep them without allowing them to socialise with their wild counterparts,” he said.