India´s first elephant rehabilitation centre will set up by the Kerala government in Kottoor, an ecotourism village near the state capital Thiruvananthapuram. The first phase of the Rs 105 crore-project was launched last month by chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
The centre, expected to have an elephant museum, mahout training centre, super-specialty hospital, a retirement home and crematorium for the animals, will house orphaned, injured and older elephants. It is being planned on the lines of the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage in Sri Lanka.
While the centre has only 15 elephants so far, officials expect the numbers will go up once work on the infrastructure is complete.
Thiruvananthapuram Wildlife Warden Y M Shaji Kumar said, “Besides giving best care and protection to orphaned and abandoned elephants we are planning to give an opportunity for people to know more about elephants. They can understand their behavior and life pattern from a close range.”
Elephant expert PS Easa said, “We have been toying with this idea for some time. This will be a boon for wildlife researchers and veterinary students.”
The forest department also plans to admit captive elephants. According to the last elephant census, the state has 507 captive elephants. The Sree Krishna temple in Guruvayur town has 59 elephants.
Once operational, the centre, spread over 65 hectares of natural forests, will also start an elephant safari and other activities to attract tourists.
The centre will also have a training centre for mahouts along with a residential facility for them. There are no authorised training schools for mahouts in the country leading to ill-treatment of animals, officials said.
State forest minister K Raju said, “We will make it a world class centre. It will be a major tourist attraction.”
Governor :P. Sathasivam
Chief Minister: Pinarayi Vijayan