Monday, October 31, 2011

Tuskless Male Elephants--Mozha/Makhana

Above is a picture of Muthumala Moorthy, a tuskless Temple Elephant. I believe the name for a tuskless elephant is, and correct me if I am wrong, is Mozha or Makhana. Below on the far right is either a female or a tuskless male, it is hard to tell. I suspect male, unless it is a "companion" female which seem's unlikely. Does anyone have any information as to why they would use a tuskless male given there are so many gorgeous males with tusks available, and the Mozha's are from what I can find, considered as "junk?" The Spanish Riding School keeps one black Lipizzan as a traditional "good luck" charm. Is it anything like that?

Makana Elephant Click link

Gone Astray - The Care and Management of the Asian Elephant in Domesticity

A great rarity of tuskers in the wild has long been noted in Sri Lanka, with most present estimates holding that only 5-10% of wild males are tuskers. The Mahaweli region is the home of the marsh elephant, a ‘race’ or ‘subspecies’ (E. maximus vilaliya) once denounced by ‘lumpers’ but now probably valid and of great scientific interest; evidently only 2.8% of male marsh elephants are tuskers, far lower than the 7.3% national average cited by Jayewardene (1994c). By comparison, a normal wild population on the mainland might range anywhere between roughly 50% tuskers, as in Thailand, to 90% tuskers, as in Indonesia or even across the Palk Straits in nearby south India (at least before recent poaching decimated tuskers in many areas).

Two sizeable samples of domesticated elephants are available which list both the number of tuskers and of all males. Deraniyagala (1955) gives 40 tuskers out of 391 males, or 10.2%. (Jayewardene [1994c] cites two earlier samples by Deraniyagala for 1949 and 1951, both showing 7% tuskers.) The 1982 DWLC census (Anon., 1982d) showed 15.8% tuskers, or 29 out of 183 males. Given that Sri Lanka has had so little captive breeding and absolutely no selective breeding to elicit tuskers, Deraniyagala’s 1955 sample suggests a preference for tuskers in capture operations, 15.8% tuskers in captivity being considerably higher than an assumed 7% in the wild. But, however suggestive, a 15.8% rate is simply too lean to be conclusive, particularly because that rate might reflect a bias in data gathering. A further complication is that some of the counted tuskers could be elephants from the mainland since import was legal and unrestricted until Sri Lanka ratified CITES in 1979. Most imports would have been tuskers. (Probably very few mukhnas, and only the most magnificent, have ever been imported to Sri Lanka, which abounds with tuskless males.)

Broadly stated, traditionally three possible scenarios have been advanced to explain the scarcity of tuskers on Sri Lanka. (Just across a narrow band of sea in south India, the natural pre-poaching tusk-bearing rate is about 90% [Sukumar, 1986]). First, following Sri Lanka’s separation from the mainland perhaps 10,000 years ago, the tusk-bearing genes of a normal mainland population simply diminished greatly through natural evolution, and thus the scarcity of tusks is purely evolutionary; current research in genetics would suggest, however, that 10,000 years is probably too little time to explain the loss. Second, another time-honored scenario suggests that while the indigenous population did have very few tuskers, fine tuskers have long been imported into Sri Lanka and some invariably escaped or were released to subsequently sire calves in the wild, thus regularly introducing some tusk-bearing genes for two thousand years or more. (As far back as 1916 Lydekker suggested that there were two “races” on the island, an indigenous race with few tuskers and an “almost surely introduced race” with tusks relatively frequent.) Third, tuskers are rare simply because centuries of incessant capture of tuskers for war and ceremony (and in colonial days simply shooting elephants for their ivory) has removed most of the tusk-bearing genes from a normal wild population. A newly arrived conjecture has thrown a spanner into the theoretical works; Prithiviraj Fernando {1995} believes that the tusk-bearing gene could possibly lie with the female, thus leaving the ‘problem’ the same as in the first scenario - the absence of indigenous tusk-bearing genes - but shifting the guilt from the bulls to the cows.

Feb. 12, 2011

Govt bends rules for elephant swap

BANGALORE: When the Karnataka government got a request from a temple in Puducherry seeking exchange of elephants, it went out of its way to oblige. Though there is a ban on gifting elephants, it treated this as a special case.

CM Yeddyurappa's largesse to temples and mutts is legendary. His devotion to Lord Shani has made the government bend rules and exchange a young female elephant from state forests with an old male in a Puducherry temple.

The Karnataka government has exchanged 7-year-old Prakriti, a trained female from Sakrebail forest range, with an old makhana (tuskless male) of the Sri Dharabaranyeswara Swamy Devasthanam, Thirunallar, Puducherry. Prakriti used to participate in annual sports events.

The Central Zoo Authority and the state government had banned sale/gifting of elephants. Reasons: trained elephants are needed for government work; and they are subjected to cruelty.

According to the CEO of the Puducherry temple, the elephant was troubling devotees. "The veterinary officer has informed us makhana elephants are inauspicious,'' he wrote to the Karnataka government on November 16, 2010. The letter follows the CM's visit to the temple in September 2010.

On November 25, the principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) said the 2000 ban had to be relaxed to facilitate the exchange. On January 20, the state government issued an order allowing the exchange.

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