At first light, we still had a few minute’s drive ahead of us before we reached the first check-post into the jungles. Force of habit is an incredible thing to be working against - the otherwise interesting discussions on quantum physics and philosophy do not really work while your body keeps repeating just one word : “Sleep”.
And then our senses were yanked wake by a sight least expected. We were taking a turn when we saw a young bull elephant around the corner – a shy loner with piercing eyes.
The place was an isolated patch of wilderness – not inhabited, but with a lot of human activity along the road. There was no food in sight, and this was no known migration route. The herd was nowhere to be seen: this guy was danger.
The engine was turned off, and for a longer-than-usual minute, we waited as he surveyed the scene, and then slowly crossed the road to disappear into the bush alongside.
The opportunity was too good to be let to pass – a few cameras exited the car, and the men behind them inched forward slow as snails, trying not to infuriate the tusker. The car’s engine went on, ready for action if the need arose.
Amidst the clickety-clack of shutters the elephant turned around, and that is when I noticed the smudged swelling on the side of his head – This was a loner in musth.
Musth (or, alternately spelled, must) is a periodic condition in bull elephants, characterized by a thick, tar-like secretion called temporin from the temporal ducts and, far more notably, by highly aggressive behaviour. …
…scientific investigation of musth is greatly hindered by the fact that, once under the influence of musth, even the most otherwise placid of elephants may actively try to kill any and all humans.