Elephants go on vacation annually in Tamilnadu, India

Myself and Priya Raju were at the famous Thiruvanaikka Temple in Trichy recently. With the help of the mahout, we interacted with the temple elephant  “Shanthi” (donated by renowned actor Sivaji Ganesan in honor of his daughter who has the same name). We bought some food and fed the elephant. It is a very friendly elephant and the mahout seemed to really love the animal. On our way back, I was lamenting about keeping animals away from their habitats, domesticating them and making them do work. Doing this to any animal is bad.  Its particularly bad to see an elephant in such circumstances.  During this discussion, Priya Raju mentioned that she had heard that temple elephants in Tamilnadu go on a vacation every year. I thought that was very interesting and dug up some material on it.  The outgoing Chief Minister J. Jayalalitha instituted this program in 2003 and has been on for the past 3 years. It has been a great success as the elephants get to commune with other elephants in their natural habitat in Mudumalai. Mahouts also are given training to care for the elephants better. You can see from the report below, that the elephants do come back rejuvenated. There was some controversy in the first year because elephants refused to board the trucks used for transporting them and they were pushed onto the trucks using some cruel methods. Overall, it seems like a great program. Interestingly, it is patterned after a similar program that has been going on in neighboring Kerala for a few years before this one. I will be really happy when a law banning any further induction of elephants for temple work is promulgated. But  for now, I am happy that they are taking care of these magnificent animals well. References:
1.  The Hindu report on the original order setting up the annual rejuvenation camp for temple elephants of Tamilnadu.
2. The Hindu commenting on the 2 elephants of the Madurai Meenakshi temple coming back from the most recent rejuvenation camp.
3. Kim Woodbridge’s elephant blog covering the latest camp. You can read this blog for more information on elephants if you are interested.
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