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Massage therapy for elephant

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TENDER TOUCH: Elke Riesterer, who is doing research on elephants, tending to a tusker at Kundannoor on Sunday.
TENDER TOUCH: Elke Riesterer, who is doing research on elephants, tending to a tusker at Kundannoor on Sunday.

A gentle touch would make a world of difference. For the animals too, thus believes Elke Riesterer.

The mere touch would mean a lot to animals such as elephants and it is evident from their behaviour, after an hour-long massage session for Shenoy Chandrasekhar, a tusker, at Kundannoor, Ms. Riesterer explained.

The Wildlife Trust of India and Kochi-based Elephant Care provided the support for her to perform the massage therapy for the elephant.

It is for her research on elephants that Ms. Riesterer has come to Kochi. She proposes to study the behavioural changes in elephants of Kerala and Assam from the sessions.

During the session, Mr. Riesterer, duly assisted by the mahout and the owner of the elephant, gently gripped the hind and forelegs of the animal. Then she applied pressure on the upper parts of the body of the animal.

A tender scrub on the lips and feeling the edge of the eyelids of the animal followed. The process went on for an hour.

In between, she fed the animal with prasadam that was brought from a nearby temple. She also shared her cup of lime juice with the elephant.

“Physiological parameters such as blood pressure and pulse rate of the animal are verified before and after the session. Blood samples are not collected for the study as I don’t want to inflict pain. This is a pleasure and comfort session for the elephant,” she explained.

There would be three sessions each for the animal for three days.

“Despite the presence of too may people, the elephant responded in a very positive manner to the therapy. The body movements of the animal, including the wagging of tail, movements of its eyelids and shifting of weight to legs say it all. The animal leans to my hand when I massage it,” she explains.

“At a later stage, if I get the required support, I hope to conduct a training programme for those who handle the elephants like mahouts, owners and veterinary doctors. The aim is to make people aware of the values of touch,” she says.

E. Nandakumar, secretary of the Elephant Care, K.V. Balakrishna Shenoy, vice-president, and K.V. Satheesh Kumar and Sunilkumar, members, were also present during the session.

K.S. Sudhi

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