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28 Jun 2022, Edition - 2541, Tuesday

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Columns

Exasperation of animals contributing to conflicts with humans

Uma Ram

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“Elephant tramples over middle aged man”. “Tourists fined for harassing elephant calf inside forest”. “Two people fall prey to a leopard”. “Couple die after tusker tramples”. “What could the boy who died in the Delhi zoo have done to avoid getting killed by the tiger?” Headlines keep hitting media about man-animal conflicts which are on the rise. People keep complaining about intrusion of wild animals into human habitations. But what makes them ignorant of the fact that it is only because of human interventions inside forests that these poor creatures, in search of food and water supplies, survey human occupancies is a puzzle yet.

“Trespassers will be prosecuted” reads many hoardings, outside government offices and private properties too. But just because animals cannot express themselves in words humans not only intrude wildlife habitations but keep vandalising these dumb creatures, making their very existence a challenge. Even crossing interstate borders adjoining or via forests and checkposts is banned after a certain time limit as it interferes with their privacy. Especially, tiger reserves strictly prohibit tourists after a certain time, as that can alter their nuptial habits. But it is only after such strict rules and regulations that the tiger population has shot up from 1,411 to 3,890 as per 2016 census.

No one can forget the leopard of Dhimbam, which was terrorising the forests of Hasanur. A truck driver and one of the guards of the forest department fell prey to the beast when attending nature’s call near the leopard’s den adjacent to the 26th bend of Dhimbam. But when captured it was shifted to Aringnar Anna Zoological Park, Vandaloor, Chennai. But the scene I witnessed there was a real pathetic one. The beast inside the cage was vandalized by the public. A gang of ruffians were stoning the caged creature. But the leopard was sitting there, staring at them fiercely. He just roared in return. That was all he could do to express his fury.

It was one such agitated tiger that had killed one of the cleaner women in the same zoo some years ago. These irritated caged animals victimise the person they encounter in their immediate vicinity.

It was shocking to hear an elephant’s behaviour after it had trampled a couple a few months ago in a tribal settlement. The gigantic mammal had pulverised the husband’s skull and tore the wife’s thighs and had almost jammed her too to death. The neighbours had burst firecrackers to drive away the tusker. Though he left the scene, he had been observing from quite a distance people carrying​ her alive. But the poor lady succumbed to the injuries enroute. Unaware of her death the tusker had continuously visited their house for a week, hitting the door furiously to kill her.

It rings of a warning. Animals have revenging nature. The stories depicted in the books and movies are not untrue. Unless they had harmed the elephant or its family member it would not have come back to avenge repeatedly! Though hoardings are put up cautioning tourists about legal action if animals are harassed, people continue to do the same.

Once when we happened to sight a pair of tigers on the road, in Nagerhole, we just reversed the car to keep distance so that we did not interfere with their privacy. It was raining tigers. The awesome sighting went on for more than an hour and a half as they were left undisturbed. But slowly the tourists, the mobs to be more precise, that gathered started annoying the beasts, and few of the idiots even got out of the vehicle to take closeup shots. What if the beasts had charged? They would simply blame the forest department. Then my husband had to call up the ranger to clear the crowd.

It still remains a wonder why people continue to vandalise when in forests and zoos. Getting out of vehicles inside forests is strictly prohibited everywhere, unless it is a proper guided trek with legal permissions.

But people still continue with the foolishness, mistaking it either for an adventure or the social media-driven craziness, taking selfies and groupfies with the beasts. Remember, life is more precious than the likes and comments on the social media. It reminds me of a so called irritating joke I recently got on a social media. It goes like this, a group of youngsters posing for a groupfie, with a tiger staring at them amidst the bushes behind them – ”Run for likes before we post your obituary after your lives”!

Always bear it in mind that there is some loved one awaiting your safe return. It is your responsibility to meet their expectations. And animals too have their families and someone is waiting for their return. Harm not them and don’t get harmed by them. Be safe by being kind.

We humans talk about animal invasions into human habitations. But attacking and sabotaging our habitations is their way of expressing their grievances. Life is short. Don’t make it shorter.

(The author of the column is Uma Ram, freelance writer from Coimbatore)

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are the author’s own.

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