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About Indian Elephant and Safari

Updated on July 17, 2021
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Uday works as a naturalist and birding guide in India. His love for wildlife and nature encourages him to blog and write articles.

Elephant in India

Indian Elephant is a separate race with differing morphology than its African cousin. Unlike the African Elephant the ones in India have been captured from wild and trained since centuries.

The art of training was developed in India. Throughout the history they have been used as transportation. The pachyderm has been used in forestry and in battle grounds as well.

The animal in India is extensively used in wild safaris and urban sightseeing rides. It's role in forests has changed from lumber laborer to giving ride on its back. All over the Nation, safaris on elephant back are conducted in tiger reserves. This accords a unique feature to tourism in the country's wilderness.

Approximately twenty thousand plus Indian Elephants survive in the wild. Capturing of wild elephants is banned, they are now protected by Project Elephant launched by MOEF (Ministry of Environment and Forests) on similar lines to Project Tiger. The project assists the survival of elephants in many ways, one of them is to prevent illegal killing.

Many reserves have been created in the country for conservation of wild pachyderms.

Elephant safari in India
Elephant safari in India

Temple Elephant

Decorated Temple Elephant
Decorated Temple Elephant | Source

Safaris & Rides

This mode of transport has arisen from a technology different from the conventional. The pachyderms are tamed and ridden using intense understanding of their behavior and physical characteristics.

There are various training centers in Himalayan Foothills, Orissa, Jarkhand, Uttar Pradesh, North East and Southern India. Elephant training also takes place in tiger reserves of India. These have been captured since ages and trained by their keepers. These animals develop a strong bonding with their riders, the Mahouts.

In a period of time they have become active partners in tourism. These mammals are being used by some large hotels for entertaining their guests. Some private owners also offer rides on this animal for a charge in many places in the country. These rides are most common in the tiger reserves.

In many tiger reserves long ride is available on elephant back for a prescribed fee. At many places tiger show on elephant back is a popular mode of tourism. In Corbett, Kanha, Pench, Bandhvgarh, Panna, Ranthambhore and Bandhavgarh these rides are available for a charge.

Some Sadhus also offer small rides to people on their elephants. These are usually owned by temples and managed by the sadhus. Many sights of colorfully painted elephant are common in India, and form part of its exotic landscape.

Joy Ride

Safari Elephants & Mahouts
Safari Elephants & Mahouts | Source

Elephants in Indian Forests

There are many reserves in India that have substantial population of wild elephants. Most popular destination for elephant safaris are Corbett Tiger Reserve, Periyar Tiger Reserves, Kaziranga, Namdhapha and so on.

There about twenty six reserves in India notified for the conservation of the species. The population estimate is from 20000 plus to 30000 in whole of the country. The number of elephants has gone down in the country due to habitat loss and poaching.

Some popular elephant reserves are:

  • Mayurjarna Elephant Reserve
  • Singhbhum ER
  • Periyar ER
  • Annamamali ER
  • Mysore ER

The number of reserves in India are over thirty.

Corbett Safari

Organizing Elephant Safari in India

Elephant safaris are organised in India in many of its tiger reserves. These are rides on the back of the animal, they organised to explore the forests, track wild animals and tigers.

The charge for these rides varies in the country. It is based on number of hours spent in the forest on safari. The charge for tiger show in Central Indian Reserve is fixed. But long ride charges vary in these preserves depending upon the local policy.

The safaris can be organized by tour operators during your visit to National Parks. These are companies that conduct tourism packages all over the country. You can also book a ride on elephants directly at the office of the Field Director of any tiger reserve or National Park. In Central Reserves no prior bookings are required for tiger show on elephant back.

In many reserves the tiger shows on elephant back have been stopped.

Tiger Show

Elephant Tiger Show
Elephant Tiger Show | Source

Elephant Tiger Safari

Tiger Safari on Elephant
Tiger Safari on Elephant | Source

The Mahouts

The mahouts are people who train and ride the elephants. They are experts at their job and usually come from places where elephants are found in the wild. The mahouts learn the task from their fathers, and the art is passed down through generations.

The riders control the elephant using their feet, a steel hook called ankush which also acts like a hammer and a language. A short and long pole is also used to control the pachyderms.

From the young stage they are taught to understand human language. Whence the young ones are capable of riding they are used for safari, city rounds and other tourism activities in India and some Asian countries.

Elephant Riders

Mahouts the elephant riders
Mahouts the elephant riders | Source

Elephant Jeep Safari

In most of the tigers reserves the excursions are done using open jeeps. Trekking on foot is not allowed in these parks hence it is a must to hire jeeps. The elephant rides are conducted only by the forest department. Outside elephants owned privately by the hotels and mahouts are not allowed in the core zones.

Many tour operators organize a mix of elephant and jeep safaris in India. A notable example is Indian elephant safari for animal watching and birding in India. The rides are conducted inside and outside the National Parks. These mammals are also used for sightseeing and in religious ceremonies. The wild safaris could be a mix of ride on the elephant for some distance, and then the rest is carried out on the jeep.

Tiger shows on elephant back are no more conducted in India. At some places joy rides are available.

Elephant Tiger Safari

Elephant Tiger Safari in the Jungle of India
Elephant Tiger Safari in the Jungle of India | Source


With the population going down year by year a program to conserve this species was launched in 1999. Many reserves were created to provide a good habitat for the animals. The threat loons large over these giants in India.

The poaching for its ivory and habitat destruction has put the animal in endangered list. Armed poachers resort to culling of male elephants for their tusks. Spreading human settlements are encroaching on their territories and blocking migration routes all over the country.

The blocking of migration routes and conversion of natural lands into forest has lead to incursions. The agriculture land so created have been subject to raids by wild elephants creating man animal conflicts.

Hopefully with ban on capturing elephants in the wild and prevention of poaching the numbers will increase.

Elephant & Jeep Safari

Tourists in Elephant & Jeep in Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve
Tourists in Elephant & Jeep in Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve | Source

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© 2012 Uday Patel


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