Elephants from Karnataka face jumbo language challenge in Dudhwa

BAREILLY: Elephants are intelligent, they can remember and have the ability to understand human body language. Authorities at Dudhwa Tiger Reserve (DTR) are banking on just that to break the Kannada–Hindi language barrier and help the 10 jumbos which have come from Karnataka to become a part of the reserve’s patrol force.
When DTR authorities worked out plans to transport 10 elephants from Karnataka, they were aware that these jumbos would respond only to commands given in Kannada. But jumbos’ new handlers would speak in Hindi. To surmount the language problem, six mahouts of Dudhwa were sent to Karnataka for a two-month training before shifting the jumbos across 2,500km to DTR by road.Giving details, Mahaveer Kaujlagi, deputy director of DTR, told TOI, “During the two-month training in Karnataka, our mahouts learnt Kannada words which were used by elephants’ handlers there. Besides, 12 mahouts from Karnataka arrived along with the elephants here to help the pachyderms adjust in a new home.
“Our mahouts give instructions in both Hindi and Kannada to make elephants understand that their meaning is same. Elephants have started picking up Hindi words. Our mahouts are currently giving commands only in Hindi and have taken full control of the jumbos.’’Irshad Ali, who has been working as a mahout in DTR for the past 24 years, said, “During the training, we learnt the Kannada words used for giving commands like ‘turn, lie down, sit’ and ‘go backwards’. We started giving commands in both languages to elephants to make them learn new Hindi words. It took only 12 days for elephants to understand Hindi words used for several instructions.’’ Ali said.
“The body language of mahouts plays an important role in giving commands to elephants and it is same in both UP and Karnataka. For instance, if we want elephant to take right turn, we loosely release our right leg but move our left leg. However, if the elephant does not listen to its mahout, we have to tap its forehead with a stick to make them listen to our commands.’’
Kartick Satyanarayan, co-founder and CEO, Wildlife SOS, said, “Elephants are intelligent mammals and learn quickly. They understand the expectations and behaviour of their mahouts.’’ Of the 12 mahouts who came from Karnataka, five would be leaving for home this week while the others would be going in 10 days. “The mahouts of Karnataka stay at a distance from elephants so that the jumbos are detached from them,’’ said Kaujlagi.Forest officials said once the four-month quarantine period is over and the elephants get used to their new home, a health check-up would be conducted and then they would be made to meet and interact with the 13 resident elephants of Dudhwa.

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