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India’s Oscar-Winning Documentary The Elephant Whisperers Is Shot at Theppakadu Elephant Camp, the Oldest in Asia

13-03-2023 : The Theppakadu Elephant Camp, located in the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve in the Nilgiri Mountains in Tamil Nadu, is a unique and historic institution that plays a critical role in the conservation of elephants and the preservation of their natural habitat. Established over a century ago, it is the oldest elephant camp in Asia, and over the years, it has become a center of excellence for elephant training and rehabilitation.

The camp is situated on the banks of the Moyar River and presently houses 28 elephants. These elephants are under the care of a dedicated team of Mahouts, who provide them with training and care. The Mahouts are highly skilled in working with elephants and are trained to understand the different personalities of each animal and cater to their individual needs.

The Theppakadu Elephant Camp gained worldwide recognition when the Oscar-winning short documentary ‘The Elephant Whisperers’ was shot here. The director of the film, Kartiki Gonsalves, spent five long years in the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve to shoot the documentary, which explores the bond between an orphaned elephant named Raghu and his caretakers, a mahout couple named Bomman and Bellie.

The Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, of which Theppakadu Elephant Camp is a part, is home to the indigenous Kattunaykan tribes, to which Bommie and Bellie belong. These tribes have been living in harmony with elephants for centuries and have a deep understanding of their behavior and needs.

The Theppakadu Elephant Camp plays a crucial role in rehabilitating rogue elephants that enter human habitations and pose a threat to human life. These elephants are given proper training and care at the camp and are converted to Kumki elephants. Kumki elephants are trained elephants that are used to guide wild elephants away from human habitations and back into the wild. The elephants in the camp are also used to drive away problematic elephants that enter into human surroundings.

Mahouts Kirumaran and Wasim have trained two rogue elephants, Moorthy and Easwaran, into good formidable animals that have become much gentler. Moorthy had killed 22 people as a wild tusker before he was captured and rehabilitated at the Theppakadu Camp. Kirumaran said that Moorthy is so gentle that he lets his grandchildren play with the elephant these days. However, Wasim, the Mahout of Easwaran, sounded a word of caution and said that he had suffered injuries thrice while handling Easwaran.

Overall, Theppakadu Elephant Camp is a crucial institution for the conservation of elephants and their habitat. The camp provides an important model for wildlife conservation in India, demonstrating the effectiveness of rehabilitating rogue elephants and promoting coexistence between humans and elephants.