February 12, 2006

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Shaji, Kollam

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Musth, the phenomenon seen in physically fit captive male elephants above the age of 20 that makes them prone to violence, is said to be caused due to over-activity of the male sex hormone.  This makes the otherwise docile tuskers heavy risks, especially in festival grounds where they are often engaged. 

2 methods of controlling it are: the scientific one of using drugs and the second through planned nutrition and diet regulation.  Shaji of Kollam, who owns a herd of 15 captive elephants, has successfully experimented with a system for advancing the 3-month musth so as to avoid the festive season.

Off season for elephants is spread over from May to December.  Since elephants are a source of income, most owners make them work at timber depots during this time.  This results in the tuskers experiencing musth during summer, which is the festival season.

Shaji says he uses his elephants for tourist attraction instead of sending them to work at timber depots. He earns an income while the pachyderms earn a well deserved rest.   During this time planned high nutrition and regulated diet is served to them in addition to ayurvedic medicines.  After 3 months of this regime, the elephants are given complete rest for a month, during which time they come into musth.  They are then tethered to a tree and cooled down with regular showers and food comprising of watermelon and cucumber.

Shaji says that by mid-January all the tuskers would have endured the annual musth and be ready for the rigours of the festival season


Courtesy: Ignatius Pereira (text), The Hindu, January 12, 2006
Contributed by: Administrator 



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