Wednesday, August 14, 2013

An alert about Elephants in Musth!

In my boyhood days we were cheered up by elders about elephants approaching us in the street whenever we heard its chiming bells. We rushed out to see these trained elephants with the mahout, the trainer, mounted on it. We also had heard about the stray incidents of such elephants turning aggressive suddenly, and thrashing down the mahout to death. We call these beasts as 'Madham pidditha Yanai' in Tamil; this violent nature of them though temporary is devastating to all those nearby. 

Then we thought that only few of the elephants turn violent such. But now we know that all elephants, both in forest and in captivity, have it - but only males adults out of them! It is called 'Musth,' a state of male elephant having increased level of testosterone, the male sex hormone. Yes, musth is a sexual hyperactivity state that every male elephant have in their age mostly between 15 and 35 years. An elephant in musth has a strong smelling fluid running down its cheeks from its temporal glands. It walks with its head held high and also swinging it side to side; it moves along with a rumbling noise. It can even pull down a tree using its trunk and tusks! It is so aggressive that there are also encounters and contests between it and other bull elephants, in which it will be the winner always. Only an elephant having musth is allowed to mate with females that have estrous cycle. The fluid 'musth' is also a signal from a male to a female inviting it for mating. It is said that this condition in males avoids inbreeding within the herd. This musth may last even for up to four months.
This wonder nature in wild elephants enlighten us also about the parallel nature existing in their community in captivity - being more aggressive than them!

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