Much of our work in "Elephants in the Coffee" revolves about the Indian government's effort to take wild rogue elephants and domesticate them. We see members of the Jenu Kuruba tribe capture elephants, place them in kraals for three months to force the elephant into submission, and then live in close contact with the elephant for years afterward. This form of domestication of wild elephants has a history dating back as much as 6,000 years.
However, we hear again and again of elephants killing their mahouts, or trainers. Today there is another story, this out of Africa, of an elephant turning on his trainer. The elephant has been trained to give rides to tourists at Victoria Falls. Suddenly, it turned on its trainer and killed him.
In that story, the Zimbabwe National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals cautions that elephants can never be domesticated. And if you watch "Elephants in the Coffee" carefully, one mahout says that some elephants can never be made to submit to a human.
And yet India relies on mahouts to domesticate and train elephants -- and to do that with the most difficult animals, elephants who have already been identified as killing people. When we hear of elephants turning on a trainers or mahouts and harming them, perhaps we should not be surprised.
Dr. Thomas Grant
Professor of Journalism at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College