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.
An elephant in India hurt his leg and became stuck in swamp waters. Local villagers have been bringing the wild elephant food. They have ridden their domestic elephants into the murky water to deliver supplies. Now a team of rangers and vets have arrived to free the elephant and fix the leg.
One of the most touching aspects of this story is that the domestic elephants showed great compassion for their fallen wild friend. They intertwined trunks for extended periods of time, an act usually reserved only for friendly family members.
From ABC News:
Indian veterinarians are treating a 10-year-old wild elephant with an injured leg to help it escape from a marshy area where it has been stuck for at least five days.
The state Forest and Environment Ministry said forest rangers are bringing domesticated elephants to help rescue the trapped male elephant in Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary, 40 kilometers (25 miles) east of Gauhati, the capital of Assam state.
Sadly, more elephants are becoming trapped (and often die) in wells or dangerous waters. This is due to climate change – wild elephants are going into unchartered territory to search for water and food.
Do you have time and funds to stay in southern India for a while? You might be interested in volunteering for the elephant census. The Karnataka Forest Department is accepting volunteer applications from people age 22-age 50. You must work long hours May 15-19, counting elephants and collecting dung samples. Prior to your work, you undergo compulsary training.
Work is unpaid, but there is no fee to participate. Applications are due April 18.
The last census was completed in 2012 with volunteers estimating that 5,000 elephants lived in Karnataka.
Photo: taken at Elephant Nature Park
A new art exhibit in India raises awareness about human-elephant conflict. “For the Love of Giants” is an exhibit of fifteen paintings and five pottery pieces by artist Praveen Nandkumar. All proceeds from the sale of the art will go to A Rocha India, a not-for-profit organization. They try to reduce human-animal conflicts by building fences with natural and man-made materials, doing camera tracking of wild animals, installing warning systems to alert residents of elephant presence, and running educational programs.
The exhibit is shown in India, at Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath.
Video: A Rocha India, YouTube