London: Garlanded with gold and carrying a Hindu deity on his back, Babu the elephant, like many others in the country, is the centre point of religious ceremonies conducted across the Indian state of Kerala.
After 45 years of life and sheer hard work, the large animal is fast approaching retirement - and, like many of the 650 working elephants in the state, there have always been fears for his future.
It takes about 340 pounds to maintain elephants, which seems like a great expense when the average monthly wage is only 50 pounds. Many owners cannot afford to look after their beasts when they finally stop working.
But help is at hand, for India's first retirement home for elderly elephants opens next month inside a tranquil forest at Kottur, outside the state capital Trivandrum, where the colossal beasts can spend their twilight years in dignity.
Paid for by the state government, the home will buy old elephants for a nominal sum from owners who cannot or will not look after them properly.
The home will consist of 1,000 acres of woodland where each of the elephants can roam freely, as well as having its own personal pen. There, they will be fed, watered, bathed and massaged with large pumice stones and coconut husks by dedicated mahouts (elephant grooms) to keep their blood circulation healthy.