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Photographer's Note

I took this picture in an elephant training camp at Havelock island. Havelock has no wild elephants. However, there is a tradition of bringing elephants from the mainland India to serve as beasts of burden. Some of the introduced elephants took to swimming in the sea, to nearby islands. This, I am given to understand, and can imagine, was an amazing spectacle and made famous by images by Steve Bloom, a well known wildlife photographer. Unfortunately, none of elephants on island swim in the sea anymore.

While I was at the elephant training camp, the 'mahouts' (elephant trainers) were trying to coax this female elephant towards the sea. I can only guess that the primary purpose was to give her a wash (elephants need to constantly cool off),and since freshwater is a scarce resource (smallish island), it makes sense to use the sea. This elephant, however, was not too keen to venture anywhere near the water and was literally kicking and screaming on its way towards it. It was quite a spectacle. Perhaps the salty water irritates some sensitive skin in the trunks and eyes. I wonder if some of these elephants will ever take to swimming in the sea, like some of their predecessors.

Incidentally, Havelock island is one of the few islands in the Andamans where tourism is encouraged. The coral reefs and marine life around the island are spectacular and suggestions (and I might agree if I had dived elsewhere) are that this is one of the best scuba diving locations in Asia. Biologically, the Andaman and Nicobar islands are among the most exciting locations in India.

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