Elderly elephants rewarded for work
ppeggy | May 4, 2008 at 06:45 amby
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Hurray for the old elephants of Kerala!
Adorned with gold, and carrying a Hindu deity on his broad back, Babu the elephant plays a central role in religious ceremonies across the Indian state of Kerala.
Now aged 45, he is approaching retirement after a hard working life - and, like many of the 650 working elephants in the state, there have always been fears for his future.
Elephants cost £340 a month to maintain, a great expense when the average monthly wage is only £50, and many owners cannot afford to look after their beasts when they finally stop working.
But help is at hand. India's first retirement home for elderly elephants opens next month inside a tranquil forest at Kottur, outside the state capital Trivandrum, where the colossal beasts can spend their twilight years in dignity.
Paid for by the state government, the home will buy old elephants for a nominal sum from owners who cannot or will not look after them properly.
"We want them to enjoy their last years after being such good workers without worrying where their next meal will come from," said V.S. Verghese, Kerala's chief wildlife warden who is in charge of the scheme.
"They'll get special treats like big slabs of rice, a course sugar called jaggery, and honey. And vets will be on hand."
The home will consist of 1,000 acres of woodland where each of the elephants can roam freely, as well as having its own personal pen. There, they will be fed, watered, bathed and massaged with large pumice stones and coconut husks by dedicated mahouts (elephant grooms) to keep their blood circulation healthy. more......
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