How to unload an elephant

January 29, 2015

S

Elephants have to be my all time favourite animal.

When I went to India a few years back I fed and rode one and didn’t think it too cruel. Since then my feelings about elephants in captivity and particularly in the tourist trade have changed quite a bit. It’s a tricky subject though. Elephants are herd animals so seeing them alone and chained up waiting for the next customer, rocking from side to side, is pretty hard. However, that’s not always the story, I’m sure, some are kept in groups and develop an amazing relationship with their mahouts, as they have incredible intelligence that allows them to communicate emotions. These are not the ones you’ll see at the side of the road. I guess it’s just a shame that the tourist trade paints them as giant toys, to be ridden and fed, rather than the majestic, strong mammals they are. The flip side is that they are an endangered species, and any publicity is good publicity, right?

Anyway, I don’t feel like I have the knowledge to continue yet, but it is something I will definitely be finding out more about this year.

Unfortunately we’ve only seen domestic ones so far, but the most interesting has to be seeing two of them being unloaded outside the temple of the Buddha’s tooth in Kandy. How do you go about unloading an elephant off an open-air lorry?

There must be some kind of skill involved, but it basically just looked like the mahouts asked them to get off and they did. They certainly knew what they were doing. The bigger one got off backwards with the tiny mahout tugging on its tail, gingerly feeling for the ground with its foot before slowly and methodically stepping down. It was quite a sight.