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Not a ‘Merchant’ Ivory Production

Asiatic Bull Elephant, Kabini -

For centuries, elephants have been seen merely as mobile ivory holders: temporary guardians, as it were, of the world’s most sought after merchandise. The unscrupulous trade in ivory had contributed greatly to the depredation of elephant numbers. Today, conservational activism and legislation have significantly reduced poaching, and the magnificent specimen that we see in this image, has less reason to worry, than at any other period of time. And he is most secure in this ecosystem, where, in the contiguous area of Kabini and the Nilgiri biosphere, you will find the single greatest concentration of Asiatic Elephants. The Bull Elephant featured here, is smaller than his African cousin, but is imposing nonetheless. At his prime, the Bull stands 9 feet at the shoulder and weighs upwards of four tonnes. If sheer size weren’t enough, he also boasts rather heavy armament in the gigantic, curved tusks that he sports so regally. This would be truly intimidating, if not for the fact that he is so gentle, intelligent and sensitive. Which is why he’s so loved and venerated, and is a part of the warp and weft of Indian history, religion and mythology. Of course, ‘gentle’ and ‘sensitive’ are not words that come to mind when this same Bull goes into ‘musth’, a condition of heightened testosterone build up that occurs post-puberty. This is the one time everybody stays clear of a Bull Elephant, for he becomes highly excitable and potentially violent. Did we say ‘everybody’? Well, it seems not, for the girls in Kabini seem to suddenly go weak-kneed when a Bull in ‘musth’ stomps by. Proof that it isn’t only in Hollywood productions that the fairer sex seems to prefer bad boys!

Photograph: Dr. Sameer Rao Story: Rajesh Ramaswamy

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