The elephant has been a common motif in early Indian war strategy as well as the Indian myth. The Dubare Elephant Camp in Coorg, Karnataka, not only affirms that, but also does its bit environmentally.
The camp is situated about 30 kilometers from Madikeri in Coorg, and a tad bit closer to Kushalnagar. Boats are needed to get to the spot, and visitors are transported across the Cauvery River. The camp was originally set up in order to train elephants for logging purposes.
The state forest department, in 2008, passed regulations on the management of captive pachyderms, leading to the cessation of these training programs.
It is interesting to note that elephants were trained for religious ceremonies and ritual processions in Mysore at this camp as well. In fact, the elephants used in the Mysore Dassehra were trained at this very spot!
The training camp itself is now run by a group of qualified naturalists, who train the elephants over long spans of time, in order to attune them to human interaction. The elephants now assist with jungle rides through the Dubare Reserve Forest, and to capture rogue species.
The hired naturalists at the camp enlighten visitors about the cultural significance, the ecology and biology of the Indian elephant subspecies, and also assist with various interactive activities.
The activities manifest as the ‘Elephant Interaction Program’, which runs in the day for two hours. The program is a viable example of animal assisted therapy. Visitors are allowed to bathe and groom an elephant in the Cauvery about an hour.
A feeding activity is also conducted where elephants are fed with forest produce and jaggery. Elephant rides are also abundantly offered, which span areas within the Dubare Reserve Forest, where species such as the Sambhar, spotted deer, peacocks, kingfishers and partridges can be observed at close proximity.
The camp offers lodging, and an array of adventurous things to do exist in close range of the camp. In the monsoon, river rafting is conducted. On the other hand, a coracle ride is something one can opt for all through the year.
A coracle is a circular boat, which offers a more gradual kind of ride through the Cauvery. The Valnoor Fishing Camp is also located within close proximity, and it is basically a portion of the Cauvery that has broadened into pool like structures, where rohu and mahseer fish species thrive.
The Coorg Wildlife Society protects this stretch as well, and one must release caught fish back into the river, unless they have a permit.
Looking at the vastness of Dubare’s surroundings, it is clear that it exemplifies the ideals of conservation of our biological diversity.
The strict protection offered to the various species that form a part of the Forest Reserve and surrounding areas, as well as the efforts made by naturalists and experts working in this eco-community, it is clear that Kushalnagar’s forests are a storehouse of our biodiversity, and information of its cultural significance in an era of time when symbols and motifs can be used to trace our cultural past.