Wild and captive elephants baffle forest officials with their unlikely friendship

Indian forest officials are baffled by a wild elephant that has managed to make friends with a captive elephant.

The wild elephant, Chinna Thambi (in radio collar), has been visiting the captive elephant, Khaleem, regularly to share his meals, or indulge in a public display of affection or just to hang out with him.

“It looks like Chinna Thambi visits Khaleem whenever he is bored. If he is not able to sleep at night, he pays a visit and Khaleem does not mind it at all,” said an official.

Officials say Chinna Thambi has been behaving oddly as he is drunk most of the time.

The wild elephant, who has camped at Udumalaipet in South India, has been drinking water from a pond to which a sugar factory discharges its ethanol-rich effluents.

“The alcohol gives him courage to befriend a captive elephant,” says the official.

Wild elephants are afraid of captive elephants, which are usually bigger and used to drive them back to forests.

Ironically Khaleem was part of the team which had captured Chinna Thambi in late January at Thagadam village in Coimbatore, after local villagers went on protest against his crop raiding habits.

Though they shifted him to a forest 80 kms away, he refused to stay put.

Preferring to feed on standing crops he emerged out of the forest and travelled for nearly 100 kms in three days and halted at Udumalaipet after tasting its water.

Officials say they have no choice but to capture Chinna Thambi and train him as he will never stay inside forests again.