The World is Fat, Tom, just ask our elephants

SUNAAD RAGHURAM writes: It’s Kalyug and what has the world come to? Camels are not really beginning to fly but the largest and the heaviest land mammals on earth, the elephants, are putting on weight.

As if their bodies didn’t have enough fat already. As if they didn’t weigh a good 4,000 kilos in adulthood. As if they didn’t consume a sure 250 to 300 pounds of fodder each single day. And as if they didn’t munch food for close to 17 hours a day.

Memo to Tom Friedman: The World is Fat, buddy.

If you thought that elephants by natural disposition were huge, visit the famous temple-town of Dharmasthala near Mangalore in western Karnataka. The two elephants owned by the temple are not merely big but grotesque in their bodily contours, hideously massive in their gait and comically weird in their looks.

Really bizarre and funny have they become, Tom.

The elephants stand for most part of the day in front of the main entrance to the temple where easily tens of thousands of devotees throng. The elephants’ legs look like humongous pillars made out of thick, coarse folds of leather and their swinging trunks resemble tapering tree trunks.

Their tummies are the shape of a cavern and if you were to lovingly adorn their necks with a gold chain, the souks in the Middle East better be alerted! 

And when it's time to leave the temple premises, the two pachyderms swing and sway their way through the milling crowds like gargantuan behemoths even as the devout stand aside and fold their hands in prayer; some of them making a hesitant, feeble, reverential bid to touch them.

The reason for their obesity?

Hundreds of pieces of coconut and assorted fruits that the people feed them almost from dawn to dusk—this apart from the regular food that the elephants consume during the rest of the day.  

Who can ever tell elephants to watch their diet, after all!


In 2000, Dr K.P. Sree Kumar and Nirmalan G. of the Kerala Agricultural University, Trichur, won the IgNobel Prize ( in mathematics for coming up with a formula (S = -8.245 + 6.807H + 7.073FFC) to calculate the total surface area in Indian elephants