Sunday, April 22, 2012

Hanging with an elephant


Elephants would have to be one of my favourite animals. Their sheer size and unusual features make them something special. Living in Delhi I probably spot an elephant in traffic maybe once every two or three weeks and I don't think I will ever get tired of seeing these amazing beasts. So when friends of ours, that live in our neighbourhood, said they were hiring an elephant for their daughters birthday I jumped at the opportunity to go and hangout with it and of course go for a ride.

The elephants name was Rupa and she was 45 years old. She was such a beautiful creature all painted up with blue and yellow chalk designs. She seemed like such a gentle giant but I was well aware that elephants can go on a rampage after the slightest startle.
It's funny the things you notice when you can get up close and feel their rough skin. I was standing next to her for a photo, she was crouched down on the ground and it was a little disconcerting feeling this huge rough ear flap against my back.
We fed her peanuts; first we had to hold up the peanuts so she could see them, then she would hold her trunk in a way that we could drop them in and then she would then toss them into her mouth.
She drank a couple of buckets of water, draining half a bucket with one slurp and the squirting it into her mouth.
Climbing up onto her back for a ride was no easy feat. You had to stand on her bent leg and pull yourself up. When she stood up the lurch was a little scary as you leaned so far back all you could see was sky. Her gait was slow and lumbering and would not be a form of transport that would be enjoyable over long distances.
To get down you climbed onto her neck and kind of slid off feeling her spiky hairs and scaly skin chaffing your legs on the way down. 



It was interesting learning about the lives of the Delhi elephants from her mahout (elephant handler). The elephants of Delhi live down by the Yamuna river; it took Rupa about 2 hours to walk to our neighbourhood (15 minute drive sans traffic). Sadly the Yamuna is horrifically polluted so the living conditions for the elephants is less than ideal.
Apparently an elephant calf costs between $46,000 and $110,000 depending on the tusk size, the health and gender of the calf. Good thing their working life is a good 50 years. Elephants can live up to 80 years and cost bout $400 a month in food and maintenance. It takes about 2 years to train an elephant for service at parties, weddings and other ceremonies. They are taught to lift their trunks on command, make noises, stand and sit and not to spray water on their back while they have their ornate fabric saddle on.

A few pics...
Check out the texture of her skin
Hunter and friends
In keeping with the theme of this post I had to add this pic of my fave Delhi street sign

1 comment:

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