Sanctuary Wildlife Photography judged five thousand entries this year, and the top prize went to Biplab Hazra’s heartbreaking image of elephants being hurt by an angry mob in India. Entitled “Hell is Here”, one can see a mother and calf trying to flee as firecrackers and fires surround them and even light their feet and tails. Their pain and fear is obvious, and the wicked delight of the human mob is frightening to witness.
The photographer described his image in his official contest entry:
[The] calf screams in confusion and fear as the fire licks at her feet. Flaming tar balls and crackers fly through the air to a soundtrack of human laughter and shouts. In the Bankura district of West Bengal this sort of humiliation of pachyderms is routine, as it is in the other elephant-range states of Assam, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu and more.
According to the Washington Post, India has sixty percent of the world’s Asian elephant population. Yet, we know India is also the second most populous country on Earth and very well may overtake China this century. This means that land and resources are scarce, and elephant-human conflict continues to increase. Add in the problem of climate change, and available resources become even more valuable. There is no easy solution to the problem, but Hazra believes the government is not trying very hard to think of solutions.
From the Washington Post:
“The ignorance and bloodlust of mobs that attack herds for fun, is compounded by the plight of those that actually suffer damage to land, life and property by wandering elephants and the utter indifference of the central and state government to recognize the crisis that is at hand,” Hazra wrote.