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Mahout and elephant in river
An elephant and a mahout in Dubare, an elephant camp in the state of Karnataka, South India. This is one of the camps where elephants are now maintained, after logging with elephants ended in India at the end of the 20th century.
Logging and forest camps

For millennia, timber industry was one of the main users of elephants in Asia. Use of elephants in logging has now ended in Thailand and India. The largest number of logging elephants today - a few thousands - are found in Myanmar.


Hauling logs in the jungles


Currently the largest number of logging elephants is in Myanmar. The government-owned logging company Myanma Timber Enterprise has approximately 3,000 elephants. There is also illegal logging that involves elephants, but the exact numbers of them - or any other particulars of such criminal operations - are unknown.

As in any type of elephant use, mahouts vary in their attitude to elephants. Some mahouts are calm, while others are known to use sharp weapons quite excessively in everyday work to make elephants walk faster. As there are normally no outside spectators, there is also less social control on the extent of pain inflicted by these mahouts.

Hauling logs in the jungle is physically hard work, especially since the sought-after hardwood species tend to be very heavy. Logging sometimes involves accidents to elephants, resulting in injuries such as broken bones. This is especially problematic in criminal operations, as illegal loggers are very unlikely to seek veterinary help.


Forest camps: "living museums"

During recent decades, large-scale logging has come to an end by a government decision in some countries such as Thailand and India. In Thailand, most of the ex-logging elephants are now used in tourism rides, but there are also government-owned elephants used in shows for tourists, including a show of logging practices of the old.

In India, many of the former logging elephants are housed at elephant camps maintained by the state forest departments. Some of these are mainly for the purpose of maintaining the elephants, some of which are also used in chasing wild elephants away from fields and villages. A few forest camps in India also arrange elephant rides and other ordinary tourist activities. Several forest camps have also taken in elephants from private owners who could no longer afford the upkeep of the elephants and needed to give them away.

Copyright © Elephant Experts 2014-2016
Photo copyright © Elephant Experts and the photographers:
Minna Tallberg, Helena Telkänranta, Marc Pierard, Karpagam Chelliah,
Nirvay Sah, Sudhir Yadav and Ramesh Belagere