Meet Onti Kombu, the infamous single tusk elephant that used to roam the forests of Bandipur in the Nilgiris. If you have visited Bandipur before 2009, chances are that you would have seen, or atleast heard of this elephant. He was known for his temper and for killing 10-12 people on the Mysore-Ooty highway. Most people thought of him as a crazy rogue elephant who was intolerant of humans.
During my 3-month stint as a naturalist at Jungle Lodges and Resorts, Bandipur, I had the pleasure of seeing him almost every other day during the safaris. And contrary to what I had heard from a lot of people, I found him to be usually quite calm and going about his full time business of feeding. There were a few instances where he turned aggressive, but this was mainly due to provocation — an ignorant tourist getting off his vehilce to get a closer image (sometimes with flash), or a truck driver honking to make way. It iss unfortunate that we label such a magnificent beast as hostile, without understanding the circumstances which turned him that way.
In this image, you see Onti Kombu kneeling on one leg to reach up to the leaves. I was very confused as to why an elephant would do that until the famous filmmakers of Bandipur Krupakar and Senani mentioned that sometimes elephants do this when their hind legs are weak. A well built healthy elephant would just stand up on its hind legs if it wanted to reach out for these leaves.
Unfortunately, Onti Kombu was shot dead in December of 2008. His tusk was found intact and many suspected it to be the work of local villagers who were frustrated with him raiding their crops.