LIFESTYLE

PHOTOS: A Last Look At Rajan, Andaman's Only Swimming Elephant

Rajan was a favourite with tourists, divers, photographers, and filmmakers.

03/08/2016 12:58 PM IST | Updated 04/08/2016 11:40 AM IST
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The world's only ocean-swimming elephant passed away earlier this week at the age of 66 in the Andamans. The legendary elephant, called Rajan, had retired from his swimming duties in 2014, but was still a beloved figure among visitors who came across him on Havelock Island.

Rajan was first brought to the Havelock Island in the 1970s to lug wood. After the practice was banned, the elephant found himself featuring in a movie, only to be abandoned once the shooting was done. It was then, in 2007, that the owners of Barefoot at Havelock, an eco-friendly resort acquired Rajan for a sum of ₹26 lakh. The resort website relates his life story claiming that the gentle beast was about to be sold to a temple in Kerala, when they rescued him after paying the hefty amount.

According to the website his duties at the resort were minimal, involving swimming with tourists for just 10 days in a year. Rajan's popularity with the swarm of entranced photographers, filmmakers and divers meant that the large sum of money paid for him was soon worked off.

Weighing in at a hefty 3.5 tonnes, and standing at four metres tall, Rajan, like most elephants, was an excellent swimmer and loved the water. Swimming elephants were once a common phenomenon in the Andamans, but Rajan was the last of his kind. The passing of one of Andaman's best recognised mascots marks the end of a beautiful era when the Asiatic elephants swam and frolicked in the sea.

Here are some photos of Rajan swimming.

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    ANDAMAN ISLANDS, BAY OF BENGAL - UNSPECIFIED DATE ***EXCLUSIVE***:***STRICTLY NO INTERNET USE***Rajan the elephant walks out of the Bay Of Bengal. Gliding gracefully beneath crystal clear waters this Asian bull elephant cuts a memerising figure. Weighing a hefty 3.5 tons and standing at a whopping four metres tall, Rajan is the last swimming elephant of the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal. Dive tour operators and underwater photographers Jacqueline Russell and Jake Ziegler spent one week swimming and photographing the mammoth beast, capturing these stunning images. 'It was our first time in the Andaman Islands and to swim with Rajan was an incredible experience,' said Bristol-born Jacqueline. Aged 59, Rajan was originally taken to the islands for logging in the forests before it was banned in 2002. He has now become a tourist attraction on Havelock island and amazes visitors as he exercises in the ocean. Like most mammals, elephants are superb swimmers, able to go for long distances without tiring. Their huge bulk and colossal lungs give them excellent buoyancy. The handy addition of a natural snorkel - their long trunks - lets them swim with their mouths below the surface. Thanks to her meticulous planning, Jacqueline and Jake were able to spend three days submerged with the gentle giant in swimming. 'Rajan does not like to swim every day as he is getting on in years now, so we planned ahead of time to book Rajan for the whole week so he did not get tired or swim with anyone else,' revealed Jacqueline. 'But Rajan was amazing and he gladly obliged and swam with us on all three days. (Photo by Barcroft Media / Getty Images)
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  • Astrid Schweigert via Getty Images
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  • Johnny Haglund via Getty Images
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