CHENNAI: As many as 98 elephants are scheduled to enjoy a 48-day retreat, between December 11 and January 27, for rejuvenation at six places in the State, including the Bhavani river basin located near Vanapathira Kaliyamman temple at Thekkampatti in Coimbatore district. Of them, 45 belong to temples and religious mutts while 53 belong to the State Forest Department.
Chief Minister O Panneerselvam has allocated `89.84 lakh for the Bhavani camp, where all the temple elephants will be brought in. The camps for elephants of the State Forest Department - which will be bankrolled by the government - will be held at Theppakkadu (Nilgiris district), Anaimalai Kozhikamudhi, Savadivayal (Coimbatore district), Kurumbapatti (Salem district) and Vandaloor zoo.
The Chief Minister has directed the authorities not to forcibly move elephants that refuse to relocate. Such elephants too would be beneficiaries, as all food items and medicines provided at the camps, would be offered to them at their places of stay.
Of the 45 elephants, 42 belong to various temples and mutts while two belong to a temple in Puducherry and one to the Nagore Dargah.
In 2003, it was brought to the notice of then Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa that elephants were ill treated and that they were made to stand on rough plains for hours together because of which they became restless and started disturbing the public.
Following such complaints, she had directed that the temple elephants be given due rest and their health be taken care of. Besides, she ordered a rejuvenation camp for the elephants at Theppakkadu in Mudumalai sanctuary, where water facilities are available in plenty.
In 2003, as many as 55 elephants took part in the 30-day camp and the next year, the number went up to 65 and the camp went on for 48 days. In 2005, 63 took part in the camp for 48 days. The rejuvenation camps were suspended between 2006 and 2011 by the DMK regime. In 2011-12, when the camps resumed, 37 elephants attended, while 35 joined in the camp in 2012-13 and 2013-14. Besides, mahouts were given special training on how to treat elephants affectionately.