The elephant is the most important land mammal, and even a herd seen from half a mile away, grazing on a hilltop is a formidable sight. Seen from shut quarters in a forest clearing, an infinite tusker can truly dwarf the hills previous him. In actuality it takes prolonged experience of untamed elephants to beat a pure tendency to grossly over-estimate the dimensions of a biggish bull seen from shut quarters. But an elephant in water is a very utterly totally different proposition.
Several situations I’ve had the possibility to take a look at lone bulls and herds cross the many-armed lake long-established by the dammed-up waters of the Periyar. What is strikingly spectacular about swimming elephants is that so little of them might be seen above water. You know the rule about floating icebergs that solely a sixth of them reveals above the ground of the water-with elephants it is even a lot much less.
All that you just see of an elephant in deep water is the boss of the highest or at situations a convex once more seen momentarily in a porpoise-like roll, seldom is the highest seen clearly above water, and fairly often the one part of the elephant seen above water is the tip of its trunk coming as a lot as breathe.
In actuality, when a herd is swimming all through the river, it is pretty doable to overlook its passage altogether-so little is seen of the swimming beasts I keep in mind following a herd all through the Periyar in a motor boat, and my companion who had not noticed the elephants coming into the water, excitedly pointed to the few darkish humped backs rolling by the water and exclaimed that they’ve been dolphins.
Elephants are actually almost as lots at dwelling in water as on land. Even pretty youthful calves will take freely to the water though at situations they should be persuaded by their mothers and “aunts”. Sometimes a very youthful calf might insist on assist and I’ve seen one nearly stealing a visit on its mother’s trunk-the weight of even an infinite elephant throughout the water is negligible. It is fascinating to watch a herd making able to cross a river.
Two or three of the older cows lead it to the water and are very choosy over the place of entry, lastly they decided to cross at a particular degree, and possibly the slope of the monetary establishment and the ability of the current are important parts influencing their selection. Once the primary cows have entered the water, the rest of the herd follows, reluctant youthful animals being pushed bodily in.
The herd swims sort of straight all through and as soon as extra there’s a little bit fussy selectiveness in deciding at what degree of the opposite monetary establishment the elephants must land. Once they climb out they shake themselves vigorously with lots swishing of tails and trunks to rid themselves of the water.
Usually they indulge in a mud tub flinging the great and comfy earth over their backs with their trunks.
(This was printed on 23 May 1966)