The morning sun in its juvenile drive draws countless figures in the water reservoir to which the black beauties, both big and small, plunge in for their joyful dip and redraw the figures in the water. To watch these jumbos having their ceremonious bath is not enough for the spectators. Some of them cheerfully get into the water to help the mahouts in scrubbing the tough skin of these peace loving mammals.
This is not an intro of a fairy tale that we are discussing here, these are some of the routine visuals that one will come across in the Elephant Rehabilitation Centre at Kottur near Kappukadu in Thiruvananthapuram district.
From time immemorial elephants have been an integral part of the history, tradition, myth and culture of India and Kerala in particular. One cannot imagine a festival in Kerala without the presence of an elephant.
Flanked by the water of the Neyyar reservoir and the moist deciduous forest and grass lands, the Elephant Rehabilitation Centre at Kottur spreads over 56 hectares and is surrounded by trenches to keep wild animals at bay. This provides enough space for all the elephants accommodated here. One of the major highlights of the centre is the chain-free life these mammals enjoy. Freedom to roam, that too in well protected vicinities is something unique to this centre. For the sick and injured elephants the centre is almost like an orphanage or retirement home. 30 elephants can be accommodated within this comfortable zone at a time and they are looked after by a team of experts.
The ideal time to visit the centre is between 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., when the elephants are bathed and fed. Visitors can lend a hand to the mahouts in these activities. The elephants are fed with cooked rice and jaggery made in to the shape of balls. It is quite amazing to watch mahouts feeding the elephants. Visitors are allowed to go near and enjoy this wonderful spectacle. Elephant ride is another entertainment provided in the centre. For researchers and students this is an ideal place to observe and study the behaviour of the giant mammals.
Nearest railway station: Thiruvananthapuram Central, about 35 kms
Nearest airport: Thiruvananthapuram International Airport, about 40 kms.