The last mahouts

The mighty Asian elephant has featured large in Asian culture for centuries. This enormous beast, a perennial symbol of strength and power, has been tamed and trained to perform in a variety of roles in agriculture, royal ceremonies, circuses and even combat.

Specially trained elephants were also widely used throughout the sub-continent as executioners as recently as the early 20th century. Depending on the disposition of the prevailing ruler, the unfortunate beast would be ordered to either stomp on the prisoner or slowly pluck off his limbs

Throughout India, Thailand, Cambodia, Burma and beyond, elephants are revered and even worshipped for their intelligence, usefulness and beauty.

They are perhaps best known for their use in heavy agricultural duties like logging and hauling loads. But times are changing and the role of the Asian elephant is shifting away from menial tasks and becoming restricted to ceremonial duties and tourist performances.

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