Writing for Scroll, Nidhi Jamwal tells the story of “a major success” that wasn’t.
Briefly, forest officials captured three wild elephants that had been causing crop damage in the Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra — another front in the ongoing conflict between man and elephant, that Kalyan Varma has been chronicling here.
“The best way to deal with the problem,” exulted local MP Vinayak Raut.
Indeed. And then, the sequel:
The euphoria was short-lived. After being captured, the wild elephants were kept in a wooden enclosure known as a ‘kraal’, in the Amberi area of Mangaon tehsil in Sindhudurg. The summer heat, with temperatures going to 39 degrees C, the absence of a veterinary doctor, insensitive training and possible negligence by officials lead to the death of two elephants, Ganesh and Samarth. Ganesh died within days of being captured, whereas Samarth collapsed on April 10.
It is no one’s contention that animals should be permitted to run wild in areas of human habitation. Capture and taming, or relocation, is at times the only available option. But surely it is not too much to suggest that the “problem” does not end with capture? That the post-capture scenario requires a tiny amount of sensitivity, empathy, care?
Nidhi’s story is rich in detail and nuance and, ultimately, sad in its overall implications. Meanwhile elsewhere, five more elephants have fallen prey to poachers, this time in Kenya’s Tsavo West National Park.
Also from Tsavo, this story of the search for one of the very few remaining 100+ pound behemoths. Read this bit — and weep:
Gradually, like in the opening scene from ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, their owner materialized through the shimmering haze. A mirage from the Taru desert – a magnificent, dusty behemoth.
Other elephants stood sleeping, clustered in the shade of acacias, apparently unaware of the bull’s approach. He didn’t walk straight to water. It took him almost an hour to cover the final kilometer as he slowly zig-zagged from one bush to another. The glint I’d seen, came whenever he turned his head and appeared to bury it in a bush. Each time he did, he’d wait a few minutes, partially hidden, then continue zig-zagging upwind, scenting the air, to check there wasn’t a poacher hidden at the waterhole.
I was mystified at the bull’s poor attempt to hide – until it dawned on me that he wasn’t trying to hide his body, he was hiding his tusks. At once, I was incredibly impressed, and incredibly sad – impressed that he should have the understanding that his tusks could put him in danger, but so sad at what that meant.
It is, as Mark Deeble says, a sad world where one of the Nature’s truly majestic animals (the image above is of the tusker) is reduced to hiding his tusks because he instinctively understands the danger from rapacious poachers. Contrast that image with this.