This Article is From Dec 03, 2010

An elephant's beauty treatment

Thiruvananthapuram: Five-year-old Kannan, the resident elephant at a Hindu temple near Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala has been looking a bit long in the tooth.

With its tusks too long to be able to eat, it is time for a visit from Vinayan, the elephant beautician.

Vinayan was an elephant driver by profession but took to cutting and shaping elephants tusks that earned him the nickname of the "elephant beautician".

The tusks are usually shaped like a jasmine bud and grow 15-18 cm in a year.

The length of the tusk is measured from the front of the eye to the base of the tusk. This contains the core and is retained, the rest is cut off.

Vinayan begins the process of chiselling, filing and shaving the tusks into shape.

The mahout and his helper hold Kannan down and keep him calm throughout.

Vinayan likens a shaped tusk to a good haircut, saying that when the tusks are suitably cut, the elephant's face gets a majestic appearance, like in the case of a man after a shave.

Because of tight regulations to prevent the illegal trade of ivory, forest rangers have to be present throughout Vinayan's work.

They take the cut portions of tusk and weigh them. Kannan's tusks tip the scales at 1.4kg.

The tusks are then sealed by the forest rangers and will only be returned to the temple on production of an ownership certificate.

Several pounds lighter and with a shiny new pair of tusks, Kannan happily tucks into his dinner.