Saturday, December 8, 2012

Gautam, The Dominant Male Elephant of Bandhavgarh

Nayar Mahavat along with his family, Kuttappan and Gautam elephant reached Itarsi on 1st August 1971. Nayar Chachi remembers the day too. It was sunday when we reached Itarsi Hoshangabad and then to Bori. Kuttappan was a young man and so the Gautam. Kuttappan thinks "he must be around 18 yrs of age when we reached Bori." By this he is around 60 yrs of age. 
Nayar was the mahavat and Kuttappan as chara cutter when Gautam reached Bori in August 1971. Nayar Chachi says Gautam still listens to me. I was his chara cutter. I cooked his food and fed him. Chara cutter use to just bring him from the forest put the hauda and give him a nice scrubby bath in river. Chachi dont like today's chara cutter. " They have spoiled my elephant. Look at his tusk?? Now they looks yellow. No one cleans the mud from his tows or between from his tusk and lip. He looks dirty. He should be given a proper scrub with stone at the time of bath. Yes Gautam does not looks fit to his age. 

Kuttappan became the Mahavat on Gautam after Nayar's death. This was a great loss for Gautam because now he lost the soft touch of his caretaker Chachi. Chachi was a non paid chara cutter of Gautam. She was never paid any money but because that was the elephant her husband use to ride she took care of him. 
When I was posted in White Tiger I remember Chachi coming up to the fence to call Gautam for food. Gautam use to run hobbling. I saw Gautam obeying all sort of verbal commands. Nayar use to tackle him well. Gautam use to almost stand on his hind legs to reach top of the tree.
Lata, Tara, Toofan and Anarkali consist his harem. He was the sole male here as Shivaji was the young male in Kanha. Dev Bahadur was getting old and so it's Mahavat Imamuddin. This made Shivaji to become a dominant male there.
First elephant calf from captive elephants in M.P. National Parks was born in Bandhavgarh in year 1983. Gautam sired it. In fact no one had any clue about the pregnancy. Female was working till last evening. When chara cutters went to bring the elephants back in the morning they found an extra body there. Chara cutter ran straight to inform Tala Ranger (Late Ashutosh Dubey) with this extra ordinary news. We saw Bandhavgaj suckling surrounded by all the females.
Bandhavgaj did not survive long. He died of poor medication. Badhaini, Sundargaj, Vanraj, Siddhnath, Sudarshini and Ashtam are the few elephants that were born here. Gautam sire them all. 
Gautam lived with Nayar family for good twenty years of his life. He became use to of TLC rendered by Chachi. Then suddenly he was given to Kuttappan. 
Kuttappan was good but all other jobs that were done by Chachi were missing from Gautam's life. Gautam lost his old master.
One day Gautam was ferrying tourists in a Tiger show. Suddenly Kuttappan dropped his Ankush. He got off to collect the Ankush but now Gautam refused to get him climb back on his back.
Kuttappan decided to take him back to Bathan camp on foot from Mahaman pool. We thought this could be risky. So Kay and me followed Gautam in our good old Greeny. 
Now when I think about this I feel it as one of my most foolish mistakes.
If Gautam turns on Kuttappan we were not in a position to help him?
And if he turns back on us Kuttappan was not in a position to help us, neither I was in a position to reverse my vehicle that fast.
Some where near Badhaini junction we found Phool Singh coming on Siddh Nath. He put his elephant next to Gautam only then Kuttappan could jump on his elephant.
Gautam is a very short tempered male. I think they all are.
Once I saw Kuttappan riding Siddh Nath in Chorbehra. While I was talking to Kuttappan about tiger presence in the area, Siddhnath sniffed my both hands, found empty, lost his temper and by the time I or Kuttappan could think off what he is doing he threw me over the Gypsy.
I was put on the back seat of Gypsy, almost unconscious.
Later on doctors found four fractured ribs. Those few months were very painful. But I learned my lesson to never feed an elephant with tit bits. Even if you want to feed him then let the mahavat feed him.
Every time Sundargaj comes close to any jeep his trunk starts exploring all the bags. Some tourists lost their lens and once I lost a bean bag.
Gautam is still a dominant male here even in the presence of Sundargaj and Vanraj. Last month one night he hobbled all the way from Amanallah to Charanganga to hit Indrajeet. 
Gautam is in his prime age. At present he is in Mast. Few days back he chased jeeps at the gate. Ultimately jeeps has to enter the park from forest rest house. Yesterday afternoon we saw him in Bhitri. He is in mast, and wants to be left in the company of elephants he likes. 

Now he has gone very slow. It doesn't mean that he has become old? No, it's the mahavat who has made him lethargic. Now they use him in training the other elephant like this wild elephant. who is chained with his hind legs to follow him in the jungle.

Gautam is another elephant with character. 
We wish him a good life with lots of TLC, which is rare to find in Mahavats world now.  

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