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25 Jun 2022, Edition - 2538, Saturday

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Columns

There’s much to learn from these gigantic ambassadors of nature

UmaRam

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Being a forest officer’s wife, I would like to share what very little I have perceived over about wildlife and elephants in particular and how these gigantic creatures shape the ecosystem, maintaining a balance of nature. As per ancient Hindu scriptures and puranas they are God’s own representatives on Earth to protect his creation. Hindu Gods and Goddesses always appear with elephants by their side. You must have come across the `Lucky Gajraj’ as a vastu symbol of prosperity and protection from evil. Well it is an elephant’s statue in various sizes in gold or silver or wood or any metal. It is kept in the house facing the entrance to ward off evil forces. Similarly, an inch-tall idol of the same is kept in the pocket and cash boxes to avoid unnecessary and wasteful expenses. Such is the importance given to the power of these huge creatures.

Not a single day’s bulletin is complete without news about elephants, might it be either of elephant attacks on humans or the opposite. The tragic incident of an elephant under musth killing four people, including a 12-year-old, at Vellalore near Coimbatore has left us all stupefied and in grief.

*Four people, including a 12 year old child trampled to death by a wild elephant near Coimbatore.

*Eight elephants, including a mother and calf, fall prey to train accidents on the 25-km Coimbatore-Palakkad railway tracks in two years.

*Elephant shot dead by farmers in Tamil Nadu

*Elephant dies trying to free her calf from illegal electric fence in Vellore

*12-year-old female elephant found dead in Tamil Nadu forest

*In Ooty, elephant calf crashes through roof; woman injured

*Elephant stuck in slush dies

*Elephant kills mahout at Parassala

*What’s causing elephants in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu to die? Hunger and thirst?

*As forests disappear, human-elephant conflict escalates in Nepal

Whatever be the news, the `popularity’ of elephants is increasing with deforestation. They are supposed to be the most intelligent mammals with complex emotions equal to humans, sharing our planet. In Africa and Asia, man-elephant conflicts are on the rise due to increasing human population demanding more forests to be converted into agricultural lands, to meet the growing food necessities combined with industrial development and urbanisation. In Africa, elephants are respected as co-habitants of the continent with cultural significance. The magnetic icons attract tourists, funding the continent’s economy to protect the biodiversity of the wilderness they share. In other words, they generate revenue to protect their environment.

Elephants when they eat, create gaps for new plants to grow and pathways to smaller animals to traverse in forests. The consumption of tree sprouts and shrubs by elephants are supposed to create grasslands, a variation of ecosystem enabling different species of flora and fauna to inhabit. Generally, wildlife flourishes in the interspersed region of two habitats. Elephants play the key role in influencing the dynamics of the interspersing of habitats, promoting overall biodiversity of that region. In fact, they are the marrow behind maintaining the biodiversity of the ecosystem.

Wherever they lay dung, new trees, grass varieties and shrubs grow as their dung carries the seeds of the plants they eat, promoting replacement for their food consumption. They are a major source of seed dispersal. In fact, many species of flora depend on these gigantic mammals for their seed dispersal and reproduction. To be precise, they are supposed to be responsible creatures, substituting the earth with vegetation, compensating whatever they take from her, unlike us who keep emptying mother earth’s rich flora, fauna and natural resources, speeding up an apocalypse.

Antithetical to humans, with advanced technology, selling and buying water, refusing to share even God given natural water resources, for the thirsty, these gargantuan mammals dig holes in the dry soil during drought to make water holes. These provide water not only for them but also for the smaller species, revealing magnanimity too.

The bounteousness of the motherly instincts of these animals is amazing, unlike humans, who have misused the blessing of the sixth sense with materialistic mindset. Where among humans it is common for stepmothers to ill-treat stepchildren, elephants exhibit such a miraculous relationship of `nannies’, where a female elephant takes charge of feeding and upbringing an abandoned or orphaned calf. Remember the children’s movie `The Ice Age’ where the mammoth becomes the caretaker of the human baby, in spite of the fact that his parents were poached by humans.

In addition to their excellent auditory abilities, their feet have sensitive receptors that allow them to pick up vibrations through the ground. Thus, conserving elephants is not the protection of that particular species but the entire wildlife and habitats. It is about protecting one of the valuable forces of nature, shaping the ecosystem and striking a balance of nature! “It is about saving the creative power of nature.” – Douglas Chadwick. Then just imagine how many guardians of our earth we have lost to poachers.

Though it is easy to point out sitting inside the house that it is because people trespass these huge mammals’ habitats that they intrude, the plight of the little child and the others who fell victims to the enraged animal is a tragedy beyond imagination. The horror of being attacked suddenly while sleeping in the middle of the night and that too in ones own domicile is gruesome.

But I view it not as the rage of the lone tusker, but consider elephants as messengers of their race sent to warn humans. I perceive it as yet another nature’s warning signal just like the tsunamis or earthquakes to warn humans to stop plundering earth. Might it be an elephant, a leopard, a tiger, a gaur or any other wild animal’s intrusion into human habitations, I interpret it as message from other life forms to mankind. It is as though…. “It’s high time you humans stopped plundering our property or we ourselves will conquer our territories.”

I construe it as a war between mankind and the rest of the life forms represented by these beasts invading us, with loss of innocent lives on both sides.

As it was a single elephant, people captured it with all techniques and mechanisms. But still even hundreds of people’s power put together is no match to even a calf of even three years of age. When I saw the video of the elephant being captured, all I could figure out was that the huge beast surrendered alas not succumbing to the matchless human or mechanical power, but as though…“That’s it. My message is conveyed. My purpose is served.”

So what if herds of elephants or other wild animals invade human habitations. It’s an unimaginable horror. Remember the movie `The Planet of Apes’. This signals a renaissance very soon of humans themselves to demolish and abandon encroachments of forests, if not willingly, at least fearing the beasts let loose. Happy conservation.

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

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

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