First-phase development of jumbo rehab centre launched


The State has succeeded in reining in wildlife crimes through various steps, including intensified surveillance and enhancement of forest staff, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has said.

Inaugurating the first phase of the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB)-funded development of the Kottoor Elephant Rehabilitation Centre on Tuesday, Mr. Vijayan said Kerala had become a model for forest and wildlife conservation in the country. Nefarious activities in forests such as poaching, especially rackets that targeted wild elephants, were countered through modernising the Forest and Wildlife Department, expanding its network of forest stations and engaging more number of tribal youths for forest conservation.

Citing a study conducted by the Forest Survey of India for preparing for India State of Forest Report, he added that the forest cover in the State increased by 823 sq km in 2019, when compared to a previous assessment two years earlier. To alleviate the woes of those living on forest fringes in districts such as Wayanad, Palakkad, and Malappuram, the government successfully undertook a ₹938-crore project that involved erection of barriers, including solar fences and rail fencing, to prevent wildlife intrusion into human habitats and rehabilitating those residing in forest interiors to safer locations.

Elephant corridors

Pointing out that the State accounted for 5,706 out of the country’s wild elephant population of 27,785 (according to a 2019 census), priority was also ensured to develop elephant corridors to prevent the pachyderms from venturing into human habitations.

The Chief Minister added that the ₹105-crore project to upgrade the elephant rehabilitation centre at Kappukadu would boost the government’s efforts in rescuing captive elephants that were subjected to exploitation and rehabilitating them in their own ecosystem. “The development of the centre across 176 acres of forest area in a manner that enables the accommodation of 50 elephants will make it the largest such facility in the world,” he said.

Presiding over the function, Forest Minister K. Raju said four elephant enclosures, parking area, entrance plaza, administration block, elephant-rearing centre, quarantine centre, cafeteria, and a veterinary hospital had been readied at the centre in the first phase of the ongoing project. The centre had already found a prominent spot on the global tourism map.

C.K. Hareendran, MLA, and Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Head of Forest Force P.K. Kesavan were among those who spoke on the occasion.

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