These are not for
the weak-hearted. In the Indian state
of Kerala, temple elephants suddenly
turn on their trainers and onlookers.
Elephants have been
part of Kerala life since time
immemorial. You see them in the
cities, you see them working in the
villages, and during temple festivals
and even during church celebrations
sometimes! Americans and Europeans who
form a major part of the tourists who
land up in the state called 'God's Own
Country' have a great time climbing
atop them, traveling short distances
and participating in giving them a
bath along with the mahout (trainer).
But the last few
years have seen several elephants
running loose, and attacking and
injuring local people, often killing
They have chased and
killed people, trampled their mahouts,
overturned vehicles and pulled down
temple structures. Even attacked other
............................................................ Image: Caparisoned temple
elephant attacks and kills his
What makes the
tusker go nuts?
has around 600 elephants in captivity.
440 elephants are owned by private
individuals. 160 are owned by temples.
A single temple, Guruvayur, alone has
60 domesticated elephants.
Domesticated is a misnomer, though.
Elephants are never truly domesticated
in the way that a dog is, and require
a mahout with them all the time except
when they are sleeping.
Not feeding them
eat palm leaves and ripe bananas,
along with a host of other fruits. An
adult elephant is said to have an
appetite to consume 140–270 kg of food
Making them walk
make them walk on tarmac for long.
Tarmac gets hot in the summer, and
their feet develop blisters if you do.
An elephant with blisters on his foot
is an angry elephant indeed.
temple festivals, they have to stand
still for hours bedecked in gold
headdresses. It would be hot. There
would be a lot of musical instruments,
megaphones and bursting of crackers.
The use of crackers around elephants
is banned, but people still do it -
often driving the elephants crazy.
trainers are very attached to their
elephants and treat them well. But
many others are illiterate, and
sometimes think torturing an elephant
will tell them animal who's the boss.
With very unfortunate consequences.
festival appearance is more money, and
making elephants walk from temple to
faraway temple in the hot sun is
think it is a great idea to poke or
prod an elephant. Festivals mean a lot
of drunk people are around, and they
decide to have some fun at the
elephant's expense. Needless to say,
the exercise ends in scampering away
at best after the tusker turns towards
them at best, or in death at worst.
Musth - when it's
time to mate
elephant is in 'musth' That's the time
when the elephant wants to mate, and
the period may last for a couple of
months. At this time, the elephant is
irritable and gets angry easily.
Traditionally, elephants were not
taken or temple work during this
period, but greedy owners and mahouts
often ignore it.
So should you
worry about climbing on an elephant?
Not really. Tourists
get the usually well-treated and happy
elephants. They are fed well - they
have to look good. There are even
elephants that recognise a tourist by
his camera and pose for him, raising
You can feel good, after those
vidoes of killings, by watching this
totally chilled out elephant carrying
tourists around the villages of
A well-behaved elephant, named
Manikandan. Treat them well, and
this is how they are. Very
relaxed, and happy to carry you on
Just don't forget to feed them!
the festival of Koodalmanikyam
temple, elephant Unnikrishnan ran
amok and killed the mahout Noushad,
40, Kousalya, 75 and Nitheesh 30. The
jumbo, which continued the rampage
for about two hours, was calmed
down by the mahouts and chained.
Longer video of the above
You can see the angry elephant
attacking the temple too.
This is believed to be started
when a smart dude decided to poke
the already hot and irritated
Someone thought it was a cool idea
to pester this elephant. He then
He escaped, but the trainer was
not so fortunate.
Here, you can see a caparisoned
temple elephant shaking off the
people on its back, and finally
attacking the mahout killing him.
Then it goes wild, while other
people try to distract the
elephant and save the mahout. No
Finally he attacks another
You can see the mahouts of other
elephants trying to keep their
animals calm and try to get away.
This elephant catches a mahout by
his leg and flips him into the
air, then banging him on the
The assistant mahouts are the ones
who carry the dead trainer away.