And now an old age home for elephants
In a few months the Kerala forest department will open the first old age home for captive elephants in the country at Kottoor, 70 km from the state capital in Thiruvananthapuram.
"We have already set up five enclosures at the facility. The first phase will be ready in the next two months. The project when completed will house 30 elephants. The work will be completed depending on release of funds," VS Varghese, chief wildlife warden told IANS after submitting a detailed report on the project to Forest Minister Binoy Viswom.
The state government decided on the project following frequent reports of ill-treatment of sick and old elephants.
The cost of setting up the 100-acre 'elephant rehabilitation centre' (ERC) is pegged at Rs 50 million.
"When completed the centre will see elephants freely moving around without chains. Fodder for elephants also will be grown at the centre," added Varghese.
According to elephant expert Jacob Cheeran, if the government is going to charge a fee for the services, the centre will find it difficult to get sick and old elephants.
"At present there are three such centres in the US and one is coming up in Spain. The initiative of the state government is commendable, but a lot of caution has to be exercised," said Cheeran.
A paper making unit using elephant dung is also being planned at the ERC.
"Yes, that is possible and such units are already in operation in Thailand and Sri Lanka. Paper manufactured from elephant dung and also fancy moulds could be novelties. But these things are easier said than done," added Cheeran.
According to reports, Kerala has a population of around 900 captive elephants. The famed Sree Krishna Temple at Guruvayoor owns the largest herd of 65.