The last swimming elephant in the Andaman Islands, India

(Below are the captions for each of the above photos.)

(1) Swimming elephants like 60-year-old Rajan used to be a regular sight in the Andaman Islands, south of India, but this five ton Asian elephant is now the last of his kind.

(2) Replaced by motorised boats, Rajan no longer needs to swim miles between islands to work for his keeper, known as a ‘mahout’. Rajan still swims for ten minutes twice a day, completing about 500 yards before heading back to shore.

(3) In his retirement Rajan can now enjoy swimming purely for pleasure.

(4) Brazilian photographer, Daniel Botelho, 30, travelled to the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean after hearing stories of islanders swimming with these giant beasts.

(5) ’I would swim between him and the sea bottom - but I almost got killed by the elephant during one photo shoot. Suddenly swell came and took me and the elephant by surprise. I was stuck in the sand because of the crash of the wave’ said the photographer.

(6) ’He did his best not to kill me - I felt him rolling on top and away from me, but it was an amazing experience to swim with an elephant. I felt like that could be one of the best days of my life.’

(7) Despite his close encounter with Rajan, Daniel still thinks fondly of the intelligent beast, and explained his significance as the last of his kind.

(8) ’Local people used elephants as we used horses to work,’ said Daniel. ‘When something needed to be built on an island they moved the animals by swimming long distances with them’.

(9) ’Those swimming elephants were all trained by their mahouts. Now nobody has an economic interest in spending ten years training elephants to swim’.

(10) ’As this is the last elephant to dive, he represents the end of an old culture’.

All images © 2013 Daniel Botelho / Barcroft Media, All Rights Reserved.