Dasara contingent may get younger elephants next year

This year, 12 elephants, including four she-elephants from four camps, are in the city on the premises of the Mysuru Palace, rehearsing for the Jamboo Savari. (DH Photo)

Forest department officials are exploring the possibilities of roping in middle-aged elephants from all nine camps across the state so as infuse new blood into the contingent of the famed Dasara Jamboo Savari.

This year, 12 elephants, including four she-elephants from four camps, are in the city on the premises of the Mysuru Palace, rehearsing for the Jamboo Savari. However, there are 96 tamed elephants, including 18 she-elephants in nine camps of the state. It has to be recalled that last year, 15 elephants had been brought for the rehearsal, even though only 12 of them participated in the grand finale.

The elephants taking part in Dasara, this year, are: Varalakshmi (62), Prashanth (62), Vijaya (61), Balarama (60) (former howdah carrier), Arjuna (58) (golden howdah carrier), Abhimanyu (52), Chaitra (47), Vikrama (45), Kaveri (40), Drona (37), Gopi (36) and Dhananjaya (35).

Of the 12 Dasara elephants in the city, at present, four are above 60 years, while two of them are above 50 years. Most of the Forest department elephants retire from 60 to 65 years of age. The average life span of elephants is 70 years, similar to humans. However, the retirement age does not apply for Dasara elephants. Drona, who carried the golden howdah 19 times, participated up to the age of 61 years. He died due to electrocution in 1998 inside the forest, otherwise, he would have carried the golden howdah a few more times, said sources.

The elephants from 30 to 50 years of age are suitable for taking any type of responsibility. This year, the Dasara contingent consists of only six elephants in the age group of 30 to 50 years. Those below the age of 30 years are not deemed suitable for events like Dasara Jamboo Savari, as their youth is at its peak and over a lakh people witness the procession. The elephants above 60 years are prone to age-related ailments.

The Dubare camp in Kodagu district tops the list with a total of 30 elephants, followed by Sakrebailu in Shivamogga district with 22, Mathigodu in Kodagu with 21, Ramapura in Chamarajanagar district - 9, Doddaharave in Mysuru - 5, Hebballa in Mysuru - 3, and D Colony in Kodagu district, K Gudi in Chamarajanagar district and Balle in Mysuru district 2 each.

Officials said, till now, in view of the logistics of transportation, elephants from only around Mysuru were being brought for the Dasara festivities. For grooming the second generation Dasara elephants, suitable elephants from other camps may be considered from next year, they said.

She-elephants play a major role in all activities of the Forest department, including rescue operations. In Dasara also, she-elephants don the role of ‘kumkis’. Kumkis flank the he-elephants, including the howdah carrier, to keep them under control. However, their availability in the camps is less, with just 18 out of a total of 96 elephants in nine camps.

He-elephants stray out of forests and become trouble-makers. Thus they are rescued and tamed in camps. She-elephants are mild and patient by nature. So, situations do not arise where they have to be rescued and tamed.

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Dasara contingent may get younger elephants next year

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