TOURIST PLACES IN MUDHUMALAI
The Mudumalai sanctuary lies on the northern and north-western side of the Nilgiri (Blue Mountains), about 80 km north-west of Coimbatore in the extreme north-western corner of Tamil Nadu, on the interstate boundaries with Karnataka and Kerala states in southern India.
This 321-sq-kms wide sanctuary includes a National Park measuring an area of 103-sq-kms. The sanctuary has various mixtures of flat land, open grassland, swamp and valleys. Apart from the wide range of animal and bird life, the rich fauna of this sanctuary has made Mudumalai very popular with wildlife enthusiast.
Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary & National Park is situated at the tri-junction of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka on the North Eastern Slopes of the Nilgiris part of Western Ghats descending to the Mysore Plateau. An erstwhile game reserve, Mudumalai was declared a wildlife sanctuary with a 62 sq KM area in the early 1940 by the then Madras Presidency. With Bandipur Tiger Reserve (Karnataka) in the north, and Wynad Wildlife Sanctuary (Kerala) in the west the region forms a single, continuous viable habitat for a varied range of wildlife and is a part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.
Elephant Camp at Theppakkadu
The Theppakkadu Elephant Camp was established in 1972 in Mudumalai Range, which became the Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary in 1942. Its predecessor which served as Range Headquarters was established in 1910 near the Mudumalai game hut and later shifted to Theppakadu.
The Forest Department took up elephant capturing by the conventional Pit Method from 1889 onwards in the Madras Presidency, mainly to build up the work force of elephants needed for timber extraction. In the Anamallais where large areas were cleared for planting with teak, elephant capturing operation was taken up in 1889. Till 1972 more than 600 elephants were captured from wild to meet the demand for working elephants. In Mudumalai, elephant capturing was taken up in 1910 and continued till 1953. Thus there was a necessity of building up permanent Camp Sites with necessary infrastructure such as “Kraals” to train newly captured elephants. Surplus elephants and elephants considered not fit enough for timber extraction work such as calves were disposed off by conducting auction sales.
The use of local tribal people as elephant handlers clearly predated the establishment of elephant camps. This system was followed mainly because of the tribals’ expertise in the jungles, their long traditional association with capture and training elephants. Even today, the local tribals are the backbone of capturing, training and handling of elephant in the forest department. The Kurubas in Mudumalai, the Malasars, the Pullayars and Kadars of Anamallais are some of the tribals who have traditional knowledge in the art of capturing, training and handling elephants.
The captive elephants in the sanctuaries and national parks are no longer used for timber extraction work, since these areas are managed exclusively as protected areas. Hence the elephants are engaged mainly for the following purposes.
* Eco tourism
* Patrolling for anti poaching operations
* To control Man-Elephant conflict outside the Sanctuaries or other areas (Kumki work)
* As a conservation & Training center for Asian elephants which can be visited by public.
At present all the captive elephants are stationed either at Theppakkadu. This creates considerable pressure on the exciting fodder resources around these camps. The surrounding area appears depleted of fodder. The addition, indiscriminate lopping of fodder trees within 10 kms radius around the camps has resulted in the total absence of many of the fodder trees particularly many species of Ficus, Grewia, Kydia etc. For this purpose and also to avoid infections through fecal infestation, periodic shifting of camp to rest locations is Mandatory.
The camp has a permanent Stores shed to keep the grain rations as well as various equipments and accoutrements intended for the day today use in the camp.
The elephant camp has one Forester who is responsible for the day to day management of the camp. A forest guard and sometimes a Forest Watcher assist him. The forest Range officer has the administrative control over the supervision of the camp and the staff. Two persons, a mahout and cavady handle elephant over two meters in height. For the elephants under 2 meters in height such as the calves, only one attendant in the rank of Cavady is incharge. All the elephants, in addition to natural grazing, are provided with grain rations in cooked form. The standard practice and norms are being followed. The Forest Veterinary Officer is the authority to fix the quantum of grain rations for each animal according to its size, sex, capacity for work etc.
Elephants used for work such as timber dragging, patrolling or any other hard work are given “work rations” as and when they are used for work. Resting animals or animals that are not engaged for work are given the “Rest Diet” which is less than the work rations since these animals spend comparatively more time in grazing.
An elephant being a mega herbivore needs to spend at least 16-18 hours per day for grazing and the working elephants spend considerably less time. In addition they spend every for various types of works for which they are engaged. Hence they have to be compensated by providing more grain rations.
Some animals such as pregnant elephants, lactating or nursing mothers and animals, which are in run down condition, are prescribed special rations by the Forest Veterinary Officer or the Veterinary Assistant Surgeon in the camp. The grain rations normally consist of Horse gram and Ragi and sometimes Rice. The prescribed rations are given in cooked from both in the morning and evening at fixed hours. In Mudumalai large number tourists witness the evening feeding.
Standardised Wooden Moulds are used for making cakes of known size and weight to facilitate easy check. If the animals are being fed the proper quantity of rations are prescribed. Each feeding shed prominently displays the ration chart indicating the quantity of rations prescribed for each elephant. This chart also has the biodata of the animals. This practice had been in vogue for long time and is followed in every camp. The elephant camp at Theppakadu serves an important educational purpose, where over a lakh visitors every year, see the management and feeding of pachyderms and thereby increasing public awareness about the species. This also serves an important center for Research and Training for capture elephant management. Theppakadu elephant camp is located just nearer to Theppakadu Reception Centre. There are 23 elephants. Visitors are allowed to this camp in the evening during elephant feeding to witness the feeding process. Everyday 2 elephants perform pooja to Lord Vinayaka inside the camp. The elephants are used for joy riding of tourists early morning and evening on charges.
Other places of interest
Theppakadu, is the Reception Point, where acomodation, Van rides and Elephant rides are arranged.
Ombetta vayal – swampy area is mid way between upper Kargudi and Mudumalai gamehut is a place to lookout for elephant and Bison.Mudumalai approached from Teppakkadu or Kargudi is a mixture of deciduous and grass area and rewarding with all the herbivores and carnivores. Benne is grass, bamboo and teak area with Sambar, Elephant, Gaur, Bear and Tiger. Scenic spots in the sanctuary includes the Moyar River-gorge and the Chief Minister’s Watchtower, view point at Kargudi and the Ombetta Lake. The van rides in Sand Road, Circular Road, Manradiar Road, Jayadev Avenue, Bombax Road, and Public roads . Kakkanalli – Torapalli road, Teppakkadu – Masanagudi road, Moyar – Masanagudi road are rewarding places to see most wild life in the Sanctuary