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The secret ‘Kallana’, a mountain-dwelling dwarf elephant

Photographic evidence of the elusive pygmy elephant.
Photographic evidence of the elusive pygmy elephant.

Agasthyarkoodam, INDIA–At the southern tip of the Western Ghats mountain range in western India, perched upon Agasthyarkoodam, there is a shrine to Agastya which was placed by Chenkottukonam Madathipathi Jagadguru Swami Sathyananda Saraswathi Thiruvadikal. Local folklore and Hindu legend have long mentioned existence of a distinct species of dwarf elephants that never grow larger than five feet tall. Known by locals for their extraordinary ability to cling to rocks like goats and dart through rain forests like dragonflies, western scientists have long regarded the ‘Kallana’ as a mythical creature. However, a recent expedition led by Dr. Angstrom H. Troubador, an expert pachyderm biologist, returned with conclusive genetic evidence proving the ‘Kallana’ are, in fact, a distinct species of dwarf elephant.

The Western Ghats range is valued by scientists for its unparalleled biological diversity, as it is home to many thousands of endangered species found nowhere else. Rare medicinal herbs and teas are cultivated in the area, a valuable resource represented by the shrine to Agastya, a divinity who was gifted with a medicinal system by Lord Muruga, son of Shiva.

It is written in the Srimad Bhagavatam 8th Canto that Agastya was offended by the Indradyumna Mahārāja, who was too lost in mediation to acknowledge Agastya’s presence, and so placed a curse on him. In the next life, he would be born as a dull elephant as punishment for this breach of etiquette. Indradyumna Mahārāja accepted this curse as a blessing from the godhead and was reborn as an elephant. Unlike other elephants, the Indradyumna retained his ability to worship and pray, and was known as Gajendra, king of elephants.

A more contemporary account of these mysterious elephants was published by The Hindu in 2005.

They came across five of these elephants in a clearing close to the edge of the sanctuary. The animals scurried into the thickets on sensing human presence, but Mr. Sali Palode snapped a few pictures of one. But for their small size, the elephants looked like full-grown adults, according to him. He also ruled out the possibility of these animals being calf elephants, as calf elephants are not known to move in a herd of their own, unaccompanied by their elders.

Another distinct pygmy elephant species has been recently verified by DNA evidence, according to National Geographic. The pygmy elephants of Borneo are most likely descendants of elephants gifted to the island by the Sultan of Java. Javan pygmy elephants have since died out due to stresses placed on the island by human activity.

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