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Jan 20, 2009

Pongal Celebrations With Elephant At Topslip

Jaunty jumbo rides in the zoos, yes, but what about a power lunch and a gallant walk with wild pachyderms in the forests? Tourists at the picturesque Top Slip in Anamalai range on Monday were treated to a rare jumbo party out in the jungles on Monday. Called the "elephant Pongal," the Forest department unveiled treated 200-odd tourists to an exciting saunter and snack session with the elephants. As many as 17 trained elephants, including six tuskers, from the Kozhikamudi camp near Top Slip were majestically ambled down the forest.

And the excited crowd too joined in and took a walk along with the elephants, gently touched their trunks and tails. For once, neither the Forest department employees nor the elephants seemed to mind the attention. After the half-hour jaunt, dinner tables were dressed up and readied. Promptly, the pachyderms put their front feet on the tables and began to savour and crunch the sumptuous spread-one full sugarcane, a bunch of bananas, two kilos of spicy pongal and one kilo of sweet pongal, half a kg jaggery and 100 gms chick peas for each elephant. After feeding the jumbos, the tourists too ate the pongal, sundal and bananas.Besides, the tourists were allowed to feed the elephants any fruit they had brought.


The Forest staff at Top Slip have been organising the elephant Pongal for the last three years now."It is an initiative to bring about awareness among public about elephant conservation. We give no lectures, but just allow tourists to freely touch and feel the elephants and feed them delicacies. By this interaction, tourists get a better understanding of the animal," says Top Slip range officer, Thangaraj Paneerselvam. The tourists appeared to savour every moment of the jumbo party. But only the elephant trainers missed their star "kumkhi" tusker, Pallavan, which was gored to death, last July, by a fellow tusker.

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