27 September, 2020

Mammoth Math

Or how to measure the total surface area of the Indian elephant, without getting stamped under

Madhu Kapparath
Mammoth Math
IT was during my bachelor’s programme at the College of Veterinary and Animal Sciences in Thrissur that I first came across the now late Prof G. Nirmalan. He was the head of the department of physiology and an authority on Indian elephants, and he often lectured about their behaviour and dietary habits. Later, during my Masters in physiology, Prof Nirmalan became my guide for my thesis, the first time he had guided anyone but a PhD student. And it was he who asked me if I were interested in working on the largest living terrestrial mammal.

I took a week to decide and finally accepted the challenge of working with elephants, the symbol of Lord Ganapati, who keeps away all obstacles and leads us to success. Thus, my thesis was ‘Certain Physiological Studies on Indian Elephants’. It had two aims—to study the characteristics of blood in baby, adult female elephants and tuskers (adult males), and to evolve a simple and reliable prediction equation for calculating their body weights.

In my home state of Kerala, these gentle mammals run aplenty and (once domesticated)...



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