Why do I sometimes see your bull elephants being ridden by the mahouts or care takers?
As opposed to female elephants who are more social and relatively easier to manage, bull elephants can be quite unpredictable, aggressive, easily frightened and moody, particularly when they are in musth. The unpredictability of the bull elephants’ behaviour makes these animals far more difficult to manage, forcing us to make difficult decisions for the welfare and well-being of these elephants. Therefore, to ensure each bull elephant gets the exercise he needs to keep his joints and muscles in good health, it is essential that these bull elephants get the walk they deserve every single day. When we take these bull elephants on long walks, they can easily get spooked and frightened by buffaloes, goats, local dogs, tractors or sounds of thunder and lightning and can sometimes run amok making it very difficult to control them and also to keep them safe. Therefore, in the interest of the safety of these bull elephants, it is sometimes unavoidable for the mahout or elephant keeper to sit atop the bull elephant to reassure the elephant that he is safe and has the company of the mahout beside him and he has no reason to be frightened or scared. The purpose of this is solely for exercising the elephant. This is done simply for the welfare of the elephant – exercise and the enrichment of a walk which is critical for the elephant’s well-being. The mahout or keeper sits atop the bull elephant only and only in cases where this is the only way to give the bull elephant this exercise while keeping it safe. No one other than the mahout or elephant care taker ever does this and certainly no rides are offered to any one at all ever!
Only our trained and trusted mahouts ride the elephant while exercising it and they do so with just a cloth on the back of the elephant making it almost “bareback” and without the paraphernalia of a ‘howdah’. We NEVER allow anyone else to the ride these elephants. Our mahouts also ensure that they are sitting in a manner that causes least discomfort to the elephant and does not hurt the elephant in any way. Its important to note that this is very different from tourists riding an elephant with a ‘howdah’ which could weigh hundreds of kilos combined with the weight of several tourists which is certainly not in the interest of the elephants.