Lotharios, it seems, can come in all sizes - and species.
A wild bull elephant has managed to lure away the prized female from a circus in eastern India and left the show's other females pining to break free as well, officials and circus workers said Thursday.
The elephant showed up at the traveling circus, which had stopped in the village of Kumar Bazar in West Bengal state, early Wednesday and broke open a gate to an enclosure that was holding four tame female elephants.
"Probably the tusker was in musth," when male elephants want to breed, said Bankura Raju Das of West Bengal's forestry department.
It broke open the fence and led Savitri, the female, away into the jungle, he said by telephone.
The other females quickly followed, their loud trumpeting alerting workers at the circus.
The workers and forestry officials later managed to bring the three unhitched females back, said Chandranath Banerjee, the show's manager.
But Savitri remained at large Thursday. She was last spotted in a jungle pond bathing with the bull, said Jeevan Dafadar, who also works at the forestry department.
When her handler, Kalimudddin Sheikh, called to her and tried to bring her back, she looped her trunk around the bull's leg and "he protectively shielded her like in a Bollywood blockbuster," he said.
Sheikh was distraught at the loss. Handling elephants is a traditional role in Indian society that is often handed down through generations of a family. The handlers, known as mahouts, typically raise the elephants they manage, forming tight bonds with them.
"I brought up Savitri since she joined the circus two decades ago. She has always been obedient. This is the first time that she disobeyed me," he said.
Forest department officials said they would continue to monitor the pair to make sure they did not cause any damage.
There are an estimated 26,400 wild elephants in India, along with thousands of domesticated ones that do everything from performing in shows to carrying heavy loads in the country's big cities.
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