Wild Elephants Rampage Through Town in Search of Liquor
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Wild Elephants Rampage Through Town in Search of Illicit Liquor; Latest in Escalating Trend

Wild Elephants

A herd of wild elephants gathers near a field in search of food at a village in Nagaon district, in the northeastern state of Assam, India on Dec 30,2022. (Photo by Anuwar Hazarika/NurPhoto via AP)

A herd of wild elephants thirsty for bootleg alcohol wreaked havoc across the Monglajhora Reserve Forest in India, where local residents were forced to fight back with torches.

Footage recorded over the weekend showed elephants emerging from shadows in the dead of night, trampling across paddy fields and banana crops before nearly destroying several homes. Though residents were able to fend off the attack, they fear that the worst has yet to come.

The incident has put local authorities at a crossroads. Affected villagers have accused forest officials of inaction amidst an escalating series of elephant raids; complicating the matter, authorities have asserted that human habitation within the reserve is strictly prohibited. What’s more, it’s believed that the animal’s aggression was driven by a new-found taste for a regional spirit known as Cholai.

Cholai — a type of illegally manufactured moonshine — is typically distilled from either rice or molasses. Following the deaths of 140 locals from an industrial alcohol-adulterated batch in 2011, cracking down on the illicit spirit has become a top priority for Indian officials.

Whether or not Cholai is involved, boozy elephant incidents have developed into a bizarre mainstay across the country. Last year, a herd of two dozen elephants made headlines after they passed out from a batch of stolen mahua, a home-brew spirit distilled from butter tree fruit.

Months earlier, a herd of “addicted” elephants killed five people brewing liquor in the Jaisingh Nagar forest range of Madhya Pradesh.

Investigating the phenomenon, scientists explain that elephants lack the enzyme for quickly metabolizing ethanol. As a result, the 8,000-pound giants can become inebriated from even trace amounts of spirit.

“You can’t just assume that humans are just like every other mammal and the physiological abilities of all these mammals are comparable,” said Mareike Janiak, a scholar in evolutionary anthropology at the University of Calgary. “Simply scaling up to body size doesn’t account for differences that exist between different mammal species.”

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Pedro Wolfe is the managing editor of Tequila Raiders. With several years of experience writing for the New York Daily News and the Foothills Business Daily under his belt, Pedro aims to combine quality reviews and recipes with incisive articles on the cutting edge of the tequila world. Pedro has traveled to the heartland of the spirits industry in Tequila, Mexico, and has conducted interviews with agave spirits veterans throughout Mexico, South Africa and California. Through this diverse approach, Tequila Raiders aims to celebrate not only tequila but the rich tapestry of agave spirits that spans mezcal, raicilla, bacanora, pulque and so much more.