Monday, September 14, 2009

A walk with a mahout

Punnathur Kotta Elephant Sanctuary is 2kms ride from the Thrissur temple town. Around 66 elephants are care taken in this sanctuary. Starting from the security gate to the far corners inside the sanctuary there are elephants tied to tree trunks and big cement blocks. We decided to take a walk through the elephant sanctuary guided by a one of the mahout's there.

This is a typical sight one can find, elephants tied to the trunk of the tree. Some take the shade and some do the sun bath. They do "yo yo" moves for some jazz music to keep them warm as well away from the small bugs. Interesting to see innovative moves done by the elephants. Also some use a branch of a coconut tree to scratch their body, other throw sand on their body to keep the bugs away!

Its easy to differentiate a male tusker from a female. The male elephants have long tusks, Ah some tusks are really long as you see in the above pic (6 vidyasangal sollungal paarpom). Trust me its a really tough skin and rock solid tusk. I almost fled the spot when the elephant made a sudden movement. (@revs & @tom your requests fulfilled)

The female does have tusks, but they are very small. Like the one you see above. They are also slightly short in height than a well grown male. There are some male elephants that has a female face, ie with a shorter tusk these are the ones that will be used the circus, said the mahout.

Elephants will undergo a period (around 3 months) known as musth. During this period the testosterone levels increase in the elephants and they become very aggressive. Its identified by a thick oil like substance that's secreted on the temporal glands on the side of the elephants head. So even an experienced mahout dares to go near the elephant. Once elephant is identified for this, all four legs are tied in huge chains, food & water is supplied from distance using a hose pipe.
This is a sad part of the elephant care taking. A stick is kept behind its ear. The elephant has to stay (stand) without the stick falling down. This is said to teach discipline to them. If it fails to hold the stick, it is given some lashes with it, says one of the mahouts. Some times the elephant takes the stick thats dropped and pleads for guilty by holding it on the trunk.

Also this sanctuary has some of the elephants that were donated by film stars and politicians like J.Jayalalithaa.


VP said...

Yanai-n balam thumbikkaile, Manithanin balam nambikkaile.

Vijesh said...

Thanks Mee.. its all learnings from you..