Fellow kumkis at MTR give send-off to jumbos retiring from service
COIMBATORE: Two kumki elephants retiring from the service of Tamil Nadu forest department at the Theppakadu elephant camp in Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR) were given a farewell party by fellow kumkis and forest officials on Monday.
As tribal artists played traditional music, MTR field director of D Venkatesh presented shawls to Murthy, a makna, and Mudumalai. He also handed over certificates to their mahouts. Murthy and Mudumalai were decorated with caparison and did not look like they attained retirement age of 58. Other kumki elephants in the camp lined up on both sides and trumpetted to give their colleagues a grand send off.
According to sources, when Murthy was a wild elephant, he killed over 20 people in Wayanad district in the 1990s, which forced Kerala government to issue a shooting order. In 1998, Murthy entered Gudalur and attacked a man which sparked protest by the locals and forced Tamil Nadu government to issue an order to capture the aggressive jumbo. He was captured in July 1998 and sent to Theppakadu.
Theppakadu forest range officer Manokaran said “Many of us were amazed at how an aggressive Murthy transformed into an obedient kumki. He assisted forest department staff in several operations in capturing wild elephants. Mudumalai was also active in loading wooden logs inside the forest before being engaged in perambulation works.
The makna was christened as Murthy in memory of popular forest department veterinarian Dr K alias V Krishnamurthy who tranquilised it. Recalling the operation to capture Murthy, Krishnamurthy’s son Sridhar said, “The then chief wildlife warden decided to capture Murthy after my father pointed out that makna is a rare breed. He was gigantic at 9.5m and weighed over 4.5 tonnes.”
He continued, “I was with my father during the operation. The animal had over 15 bullet injuries all over the body that were allegedly caused by farmers and poachers in Kerala. The then Union minister Menaka Gandhi during a visit to Mudumalai appreciated the forest department officials for taking care of Murthy.”
Speaking about Mudumalai, Sridhar said “He was three-years-old when he was rescued from an abandoned pit at Theppakkadu silver lodge. My father initially named him Balram after my uncles Balakrishnan and Ramamurthy, who were part of the rescue mission. The State government rechristened him as Mudumalai since he was captured in the region.”