Set in the Nilgiris foothills, the 320 square km Mudumalai Tiger Reserve is home around 50 tigers, giving Mudumalai one of India’s highest tiger population densities.
It is widely considered to be Tamil Nadu’s top wildlife-spotting location, and along with Karnataka’s Bandipur and Nagarhole, Kerala’s Wayanad and Tamil Nadu’s Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve, forms an unbroken chain of reserves with the world’s single largest tiger population (around 570 in total).
On my visit however, tigers were nowhere to be seen – but there were plenty of elephants on show. Unfortunately none of these were wild elephants, but instead
rescued or old timber-trade elephants unfit to return to the wild and now looked after at an elephant sanctuary.
The sanctuary is home to around 22 elephants, the oldest being Bhama, a cow, who is estimated to be over 65 years old and was captured back in 1963.
The elephants do seem to be well looked after, with a detailed dietary plan for each elephant and regular trips down to the river to be washed.
In the food prep area the camp elephants’ diets were listed on a huge board with the ingredients and supplements included in individual diets. Lined up in neat rows on the diet table were blocks of precooked foods recently removed from their square moulds. Some were topped with salt and other additives, sitting ready for the next stage in the process of elephant diet making.
The sanctuary does offer the obligatory elephant rides for tourists, something that doesn’t sit well with me as I always get the impression they are not well treated during these situations. It reminded me very much of the elephant rides at the Amer Fort just outside Jaipur
, and not something I want to be a part in encouraging.
During my visit some significant areas of the reserve had been subjected to wildfires. This is apparently quite common during April, May and June, and then in July and August the monsoon hits and so are the least favourable months for visiting.
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