Jumbos party hard at this camp in the Nilgiris

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It's mammoth party time for the jumbos at Theppakkadu rejuvenation camp in the Nilgiris. The jumbos are here on a 48-day annual vacation – a part of the year where these animals are kept away from long and arduous temple walks. Elephant rides and elephant squad patrolling have also been temporarily suspended. With leisurely bath and nutritious diet, the pachyderms, including those under the control of the Tamil Nadu government will go on a state of relaxation for 48 days. The camp is being held at Theppakadu in Mudumalai Tiger Reserve on the sidelines of the rejuvenation therapy which is underway for the elephants owned by the Forests Department, temples of Tamil Nadu, and private parties.

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The camp for the elephants belonging to private parties and temples is currently on on the banks of Bhavani Sagar river in Mettupalayam near Coimbatore, while that for the jumbos with the Forest Department has been arranged at various spots within their limits. In the morning the animals can 'chill out' in the icy waters of Moyar river, one of the tributaries of the Bhavani to unwind themselves, and dedicate a fairly good time for a leisurely bath in the evening. After the morning shower the jumbos are administered ayurvedic medicines as per their weight. The food and medicines for each tusker are decided based on its body weight.

Special treatment for retired jumbos

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For the retired hands in the herd, the veterinarians have set aside a special menu. The visually impaired 'Bhama' is getting preferential treatment under the category. The once ailing and physically weak 'Masini,' who was with the Samayapuram temple of Tiruchirappilli, has undergone phenomenal transformation after the rejuvenation therapy, and is now hale and hearty. Following a court verdict Masini was brought to Mudumalai camp.

A healthy menu

The tuskers can feast on cereals, pulses, corn stalks, jaggery, fruits, sugar cane. As part of the annual sukha chikitsa they are given vitamin tablets, doses of chyavana parashyam, lehyams, and ayurverdic choornas.

The treatment begins after examining the blood sample parameters of the pachyderms.

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Earliler, the camps used to be supervised by renowned elephant expert K C Panicker. But now a medical team comprising veterinarians with the Forest Department examine the jumbos and administer them medicines and food in the morning and evening. The authorities have also strictly prohibited the animals from venturing into the forest in search of food. Reason? Forest fires have, to a great extent, have wiped off the greenery. The grass and green palmyrah leaves – the all-time favourite dishes of the elephants, will be brought into the camps in lorries.

Theppakkad elephant camp, with 24 jumbos, readies the food for the entire herd. Baby elephant Raghu is the star attraction in the camp. Apart from giving ample time to rest, minor drills for the jumbos are being performed to keep the fitness of the animals intact. A day at the camp begin with elephant calf Krishnan performing rituals in the Vinayak temple situated on the camp premises. Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment department is leading the rejuvenation therapy.

Ups and downs of rejuvenation camp

The Theppakkadu elephant rejuvenation camp set up inside Mudumalai Tiger Reserve was launched in 2006 during the chief ministership of J Jayalalithaa. Mudumalai had arranged camp for the entire elephants in Tamil Nadu. In the first year as many as 98 jumbos were brought to Mudumalai. However, following an outcry from animal lovers and environmentalists the pachyderms from outside the camp were shifted to Mettupalayam for the ayurvedic therapy.

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