ALAPPUZHA: Vinayakumar does a singular job that requires oodles of courage to earn his livelihood - trimming and beautifying the tusks of elephants. In fact, the 50-year-old, a native of Elamakkara,Kochi, is the only person in Central Kerala engaged in this profession.
Vinayakumar is the official tusk-trimmer of the elephants of the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB). He has been in the job for the past 25 years. “I started the career as a mahout when I was 14. I served as the mahout of ‘Vellapally Ramankutty.’ Its tusks grew more than five feet and the length created hindrances for it even to eat the food. It was a well-tamed elephant. So, I decided to prune the tusks with a hacksaw. That was the first incident of pruning,” Vianyakumar remembered.
“In those days, the tusks were cut by around 30 to 40 cm according to the length. But the
edge of the tusks were not in shape, giving an odd look to the tusker. So, I decided to shape the tusks using knife and chisel. After shaping the edges, Ramankutty got an ideal look for an elephant. It led me to change my carrier - from mahout to ‘beautician’ of elephants,” he said.
Vinaykumar said he had pruned the tusks of more than 250 elephants so far. “The laws related to the pruning of tusks were tightened in 2003 and now it has been carried out with the permission of the Forest and Wild Life Departments. The tusks are now removed only in the presence of Forest department officials. The tusks of the elephants owned by Devaswoms are regularly being pruned,”
Veterinary surgeon Saseendra Dev of TDB said: “the pruning of tusk will give an elegant look
to the tuskers, attracting festival organisers. The lengthy tusks also enhance the chances of touching another elephant with tusk and it angry other elephants. So, the Devaswom board has been pruning the tusks of its elephants in three or four years’ interval.