Just came back from Sri Lanka. (The war is over! Yippee!) I hit a bookstore, a tea factory, an elephant sanctuary, a restaurant on the edge of a cliff, a gem museum, an ayurvedic herb garden, and finally, the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy!
It was sort of expensive to ride an elephant for 30 minutes. This is because the sanctuary (which tends to take in older elephants whose owners can't afford their care) is also a hospital with a mobile veterinary unit.
I can't help but wonder why an elephant "sanctuary" forces its animals, even the elderly ones, to give rides to tourists on its back (an elephant's back is one of its weakest parts), or why the mahout is carrying a spear with a spike on the end. :-/
Aww. :( I really don't know anything about elephants... I felt like we weren't a burden at all on the big guy. But maybe that wasn't the case? If I go back, I'll pay the fee but keep my feet on the ground.
I don't know what the deal with the stick was. I didn't see him touch the elephant with it.
The hook [ankus, bull hook] is the mahout’s most important tool. It should be with him at all times when he is with the elephant, and he should know how to use it in such a way as to not injure the elephant. Beginning "Mahouts should be repeatedly told that the real purpose of the hook is not to cause pain but rather to apply strong, clear pressure to very particular control points that the elephant has been trained to react to (stop, turn left, turn right, kneel, stand still, etc.). The hook also extends the mahout’s reach - like doubling the length of his arm."
"The hook should be of a suitable size and design for the mahout’s hand and for the size and nature of the elephant. The head should be on tight, and the handle should be neither broken nor slippery. The point should not be so sharp as to easily pierce the skin of the elephant."
This in case anybody's interested in going into the mahout business....