Honoured by TN CM, Bomman & Belli say never expected this attention
The documentary has given a global stage to Tamil Nadu forest department’s activities on elephant care management.
CHENNAI: Bomman and Belli, caretakers of young calf Raghu featured in the Oscar-winning documentary film 'The Elephant Whisperers' that was filmed at the Mudumalai Elephant Camp, were felicitated by Chief Minister MK Stalin at the Secretariat on Wednesday. Stalin also announced a grant of Rs 1 lakh each to all 91 mahouts and cavadis from the Chief Minister’s Public Relief Fund. Besides, the Chief Minister also announced financial assistance of Rs 9.1 crore for constructing eco-friendly and culturally compatible houses for all 91 elephant caretakers.
The documentary has given a global stage to Tamil Nadu forest department’s activities on elephant care management. There are 91 elephant caretakers working at its two elephant camps at Theppakkad in Mudumalai and at Kozhikamuthi elephant camp in Anamalai. After meeting Stalin, the tribal couple interacted with the media. “Being part of an Oscar winning film is a proud moment for all of us. We just did our job. The forest department gave us the calf and we fostered him like our child. Everyone is appreciating us, but frankly we never expected any of this attention,” Bomman said.
When Raghu was handed over to the couple, he was weak and injured carrying dog bite marks. It took several months of personal care and hand feeding to improve his health. “Raising an elephant calf is not easy,” he replies to a query.
Belli had earlier expressed some disappointment about the forest department not allowing her to meet the elephant, which she fostered as her own child. “We did our job and when the elephant grew to a certain size, we had to give it to another mahout. Now, we cannot go often and meddle with their work and training,” Bomman and Belli said.
Chief wildlife warden Srinivas R Reddy said that Bomman is a permanent employee of forest department while Bellie will be regularised soon. In a tweet, documentary director Kartiki Gonsalves said, “Overjoyed and so proud to see Bomman & Bellie honoured by our honourable Chief Minister @mkstalin after ‘The Elephant Whisperers’ won the first academy award for India for an independent film at 95th Academy Awards.”
The government also sanctioned Rs 5 crore towards improvement of Kozhikamuthi elephant camp at Anamalai Tiger Reserve. It also announced setting up of a new elephant camp at Sadivyal in Coimbatore with necessary facilities for maintenance of elephants at a cost of Rs 8 crore, a press release said.
During the visit to Nilgiris last year, Stalin had announced setting up a state-of-the-art elephant conservation centre and eco-complex at Theppakkadu elephant camp in MTR. A detailed project report has been prepared in this regard to move forward, the release added.