Elephants Get Drunk Off of Villagers’ Home-Brew Alcohol, Left Hungover

by Caitlin Berard
(Photo by Raghupathi K.V. / Getty Images)

The most well-known indigenous alcohol in India, Mahua liquor is made using the sweet blossoms of the madhuca longifolia tree. Mahua is delicious, but making the spirit is no easy task. First, pickers venture into the forest to collect flowers and fruits from among the thick trees. The flowers are then left to brown, at which point they’re fermented for 3 to 5 days. After that, the petals are combined with water and fruit and left to ferment for another eight days.

When the fermentation process is complete and the liquor is boiled down, the mahua is ready to drink. Getting to that point, however, means leaving your mixture vulnerable to the elements and wandering wildlife for nearly two weeks. And humans aren’t the only ones who find the sweet spirit appetizing. If you’re not careful, you could lose all your hard work to a herd of elephants!

Attracted by the mouthwatering smell of the fermenting mahua, elephants have been known to seek out the clay fermentation pots and destroy them – after drinking all the tasty liquor, of course. Recently, a herd of two dozen elephants, including nine calves, drank so much of the home-brew alcohol that they collapsed on the spot, the shattered remains of the mahua pots littering the ground around them.

The next day, when the people of the Salipada village journeyed into the forest to complete the next steps of the brewing process, they found every drop of the mahua flowers and fermented water was gone. “We went into the jungle at around 6 am to prepare mahua and found that all the pots were broken and the fermented water is missing,” Naria Sethi told Deccan Herald. “We also found that the elephants were sleeping. They consumed the fermented water and got drunk.”

Forest Department Tasked With Waking Drunk Elephants

The elephants in a deep liquor-induced sleep included nine males, six females, and nine babies. The villagers did their best to wake the elephants, but anyone who’s ever drunk a little too much knows – the sleep that follows is some of the deepest of your life. With no options left, they called the forest department.

“That liquor was unprocessed,” Sethi explained. “We tried to wake up the animals but failed. The forest department was then informed.”

Upon arriving, the forest department did their best to wake the elephants as well, to no avail. Thankfully, they came prepared for such an event. Producing drums from their truck, the forest rangers created such a commotion that the elephants finally rose from their mahua stupor, stumbling off into the forest once again.

According to Kartick Satyanarayan, chief executive of Wildlife SOS, when elephants get a whiff of the sweet-smelling drink, they simply can’t resist. “They love it,” he explained to The Times. “It’s pure, it’s tasty, and it’s powerful. When they smell it, they can poke their trunks into kitchens or break down walls to get to it. Once finished, they stagger back home, toppling the odd tree or house on the way.”