Directed by Kartiki Gonsalves, Netflix’s ‘Elephant Whisperers’ is a touching Indian documentary that chronicles the loving bond between two elephants caregivers Bomman and Bellie, and the two calves they have raised, Raghu and Ammu. It gives a sneak peek into their daily lives and captures the wholesome relationship they share, almost mirroring a parent-child dynamic. The beautifully shot documentary is a treat for animal lovers, and Bomman and Bellie’s story tugs at everyone’s heartstrings. Now, if you wish to know more about them and what they’re up to, we have you covered!
Who Are Bomman and Bellie?
Bomman and his wife, Bellie, are members of the Kattunayakar Tribe, a forest community that resides in the Mudumalai Forest Reserve in Tamil Nadu, India. The former has been a mahout (a local term for an elephant caregiver) all his life, taking after his father and grandfather, who followed the same profession. The Kattunayakar Tribe was originally a community of hunters and gatherers, but eventually, they turned toward elephant care and honey collection for sustenance, which Bomman also specializes in.
Apart from being a mahout, Bomman functions as the village priest who conducts holy ceremonies. He works at the Theppakadu Elephant Camp, the oldest elephant camp in Asia, which rehabilitates injured, abandoned, and orphaned baby elephants. Bellie is also an elephant caregiver now along with her husband, and together they have successfully raised two baby elephants, Raghu and Ammu. Surprisingly, she was initially petrified of wild animals and the forest, as her first husband had been mauled to death by a tiger.
Bellie was appointed as Bomman’s assistant, and gradually they grew fond of each other caring for the elephants and got married. In July 2017, the forest officials rescued a one-and-a-half-year-old male baby elephant and brought him to the reserve. The abandoned young calf was critical, as the wild dogs had bitten off his tail. Moreover, he had several maggot wounds all over his body and was severely malnourished. Since Bomman and Bellie are experts in handling elephants, the young calf was entrusted to their care.
Naming him Raghu, the couple raised him like their own child, feeding him by hand, massaging his wounds, and playing and communicating with him. Elephants are emotional creatures that require round-the-clock care, affection, and attention, apart from the manual hard work that goes into managing their requirements. Nevertheless, Bomman and Bellie lived up to the challenge and left no stone unturned in giving Raghu a happy life. In the process, he and they developed a deep love for each other, which amazed everyone around them.
Not just that, Raghu helped Bellie cope with the loss of her daughter from her previous marriage. She shared in the documentary that he would wipe her tears with his trunk and give her company. Soon, Bellie, Bomman, and Raghu welcomed a new addition to their family, a young female elephant named Ammu. The sweet creature quickly adjusted to their routine and developed a deep bond with Raghu.
Where Are Bomman and Bellie Today?
Interestingly, Bomman and Bellie tied the knot in a simple ceremony attended by their two elephant kids. Raghu stayed with the couple for around 4-5 years, but unfortunately, he was then given to another mahout. The reserve officers believed that since he had grown up, it was time for him to better adjust to the forest; thus, a different caregiver was allotted for him. This farewell was heartbreaking for Bomman and Bellie, who had come to love him as their son.
Not just the two, even Ammu was sad at letting her companion go, and Raghu was reluctant to leave them all. Regardless, he soon adjusted well to his new environment, and the couple continued raising Ammu. Today, Bomman and Bellie continue living in a room adjacent to the elephant enclosure in the Theppakadu Elephant Camp. According to the documentary, Ammu is now five and still resides with the couple, while Bellie’s young granddaughter Sanjana, occasionally assists with the elephants.
Meanwhile, Raghu is now seven, and despite living separately, he still recognizes Bomman and Bellie and even responds to their call. To date, the tribal couple is the first in South India to have successfully raised two baby elephants. They continue in their endeavors to rescue and rehabilitate the majestic creatures and are proud to be parent figures to them. Not just that, Bellie is no longer afraid of the wild and has embraced the forest wholeheartedly.
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