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RIP Drona, you gentle, magnificent, intelligent elephant

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Hassan, Apr 27: A pall of gloom has descended on Mattigodu elephant camp after the demise of 'Drona,' the magnificent elephant who took part in Dasara processions in Mysuru on two occasions.

The incident occurred when the tusker went to drink water from a nearby water tank but suddenly collapsed and died. Reportedly, the tusker had been showing sign of illness since morning.

RIP Drona, you gentle, magnificent, intelligent elephant

The mahout who first saw the elephant lying dead said he suspected it died of a heart attack. However, doctors will conduct a post-mortem today to know the exact cause of the death.

Drona, gentle and intelligent

Drona was captured as a rogue elephant in 2014, in Aluru forest range in Hassan district and was tamed later in Moorkallu camp of Nagarahole National Park. After taming, he was sent to Mattigodu camp, where he was named "Drona" by the mahouts. He is described by his caretaker as "quiet and gentle". He was said to be 2.69 metres tall and weighed nearly 3,900 kg.

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The 37-year-old was used to capture and tame other rogue elephants. His services were utilised in Hassan, Chamarajnagar, Kollegala and Biligiriranganabetta forests. Drona has also helped in capturing tigers.

In the Mysore State well before Independence, the operation to capture elephants was revised by an Englishman named George P Sanderson near the BR Hills. The khedda, the enclosure into which the elephant is driven (and the activity that makes this happen), was fine-tuned during his work for the irrigation department with the British government.

The khedda is now only conducted by the Forest Department for the resolution of situations where human-animal conflict is, for one reason or other, unmanageable. But all elephants that participate in the Dasara celebrations in Mysuru have been captured from the wild in the last century, before or after the outlawing of the khedda as a royal pastime by The Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972, and many of them are now effective kumkis. Documented with incredible empathy by wildlife photojournalist Kalyan Verma, this activity is a disturbing one.

Don't be confused, he is junior Drona!

This magnificent elephant is often confused with the legend 'Drona', who had participated in the festivities for a record time. The older Drona, one of the lead Dasara elephants of the Jamboo Savarai had carried the golden howdah for a record 18 years prior to his death (electrocuted while grazing) in 1998.

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Junior 'Drona', touted as future Ambari elephant

The 37-year-old elephant had all the attributes of becoming the Ambari elephant in the futureWhen he was captured, the now fully tamed elephant was a rouge one.

The Forest Department officials, who saw the potential in him of carrying the howdah, are bringing him to be a part of the Dasara procession.

The jamboo savari in Mysuru Dasara is a parade of this wealth and power and show of grandeur, now conducted by the state government. The procession ends at Banni Mantap, large grounds with a banni tree.

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