Two mahouts killed due to elephant’s liquor aversion in Karnataka? (India)


Coovercolly Indresh and M Raghuram, New Indian Express

Date Published

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MADIKERI: A young male elephant in Kodagu’s Dubare camp that killed two mahouts in quick succession was found to be allergic to alcohol. And this, forest department sources say, may have provoked seven-year-old Karthik to trample the two mahouts, who were in an inebriated state. While one mahout Annu was killed on April 17, the other trainer Mani was killed on Thursday.

Though there have been instances of elephants known to be attracted to liquor and going on a rampage, this case has confounded the department. It has also prompted the officials to cage Karthik again and make him undergo a second round of domestication.

“Domesticated elephants rarely kill human beings without provocation, but this elephant has killed two of its mahouts. We are not taking any chances as thousands of tourists visit Dubare elephant camp daily,” officials said. Karthik is the offspring of Vijaya (40), who was captured in Kattepura reserve forest in 1998. Vijaya, a Dasara elephant, was known to be gentle.

The Dubare camp has around 30 jumbos and trains Dasara elephants too. According to wildlife experts, elephants show aggressive behaviour only when they are in musth (characterised by a large rise in reproductive hormones).

DCF Surya Sen said, “We have decided to cage Karthik for three months and it will be treated like a newly caught wild elephant.”

Elephant expert and professor at the Centre for Ecological Sciences, IISc, Raman Sukumar, said it is difficult to explain why the elephant attacked the mahouts. “It is possible that the mahouts, allegedly under the influence of alcohol, may have illtreated the elephant. It is also true that elephants are attracted to the smell of alcohol. In Chhattisgarh a herd had attacked a village where they brew liquor and in Assam another herd had smashed the liquor storage in the army barracks,” he said, adding that it is safer to have mahouts who are sober and professionally trained.

DCF Surya Sen told Express that the staff were alerted about Karthik’s behaviour, but mahouts ignored it. He added that a deaddiction camp will be organised for workers in Dubare. Kodagu circle CCF Manoj Kumar also revealed that they plan to send mahouts to Indonesia for specialised training and this will be a maiden initiative by the state.