At 60, he needs his well deserved retirement after working 30 years of his life. But Rajan the elephant, does not feel like that at all. Even today, the elephant would love to ferry people as a sea taxi around the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean.
Rajan’s job as a sea taxi has now been taken up by motorized boats and the only elephant in Asia to do such kind of a job has now ample time all day to roam on land rather than the sea. But his love for the blue waters has not diminished a bit. Se even if Rajan is no more as strong as he used to be, he enjoys his ten minutes of swim twice a day with his long time mahout and friend.
Rajan was a common site in the waters of South India where along with his mahout, he would ferry people and goods across the Indian ocean to the Andaman islands. As mototrised boats came, the need for an animal ferry ceased to exist and thus Rajan was slowly out of job.
The animal though shares a special relationship with his mahout who has accompanied Rajan in all his water journeys. The two therefore still swim every morning and evening completing about 500 yards before heading back to shore.
Brazillian photographer Daniel Botelho was so impressed by this swimming giant that he travelled all the way to Andaman islands to photograph the jumbo.
‘The elephant always swims at four o clock in the morning as he does not like the sun,’ said Daniel. ‘I needed to be very careful, as the animal could smash me at any time.”
But one photo shoot Daniel got a close shave of the danger he was facing while capturing images of this Asian elephant.
“I would swim between him and the sea bottom – but I almost got killed by the elephant during one photo shoot. Suddenly swell came and took me and the elephant by surprise. I was stuck in the sand because of the crash of the wave,” he recalls.
But Rajan was equally watchful. He rolled on top of the photographer and a tragedy was averted.
Daniel says shooting Rajan was an extremely special experience as he is the last of his kind.
“Local people used elephants as we used horses to work,’ said Daniel. ‘When something needed to be built on an island they moved the animals by swimming long distances with them.”
“Now nobody has an economic interest in spending ten years training elephants to swim. As this is the last elephant to dive, he represents the end of an old culture.”
Like his name which means a king, Rajan will always be remembered as the king of the Indian ocean in these parts of India. May the sun, sand and the sea be part of this gentle sea farer’s life even in his twilight years.
Watch video of Rajan
Image, Video and Reference: Daily Mail