Oscar-winning ‘Elephant Whisperers’ shot at Theppakadu camp, oldest in Asia


The Oscar-winning short documentary ‘The Elephant Whisperers’ was shot in the Theppakadu Elephant Camp at the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve in the Nilgiri Mountains in Tamil Nadu.

The Theppakadu Elephant Camp in Mudumalai Tiger Reserve is the oldest elephant camp in Asia and was established 105 years back.

Situated on the banks of river Moyar, it currently has 28 elephants. A dedicated bunch of mahouts trains and cares for these elephants.

The director of the movie, Kartiki Gonsalves had stayed in the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve for five years to shoot the documentary. The perseverance paid off, taking her to an Oscar victory.

The movie, which is of 41 minutes duration, explores the tentative and precious bond between an orphaned elephant Raghu and his caretakers, a mahout couple, Bomman and Bellie.

The Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, of which the Theppekadu Elephant camp is part of, has a good population of the indigenous Kattunaykan tribes to which Bommie and Bellie belong to.

The Theppakadu Elephant Camp rehabilitates rogue elephants that enter human habitations and enter into conflict with people. These elephants are given proper training at these camps and converted to Kumki elephants.

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 and has been captured and rehabilitated at the Theppakadu Camp. Kirumaran said that Moorthy is so gentle that he lets his grand children 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.

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