Image by Wolfgang_Hasselmann from Pixabay 

My keen interest on elephants grew on me from my childhood days. My parents told me that elephants are faithful, affectionate and powerful animals, and they are found across the world in large numbers in the dense jungles of India, Burma, Sri Lanka, Sumatra, in the Malaya Peninsula, and in the continent of Africa. I learnt that Asiatic elephants live in small herds, roam about in cultivated lands, in tea estates and near the vicinity of the springs and rivers. They are invariably active at night and during the cool hours of the day. People generally fear seeing the gigantic body of the elephant with it’s huge legs as it passes by the road. Elephants cruise everything on their way when they are in search of food; they can easily dismantle the inhabited houses with the help of their powerful tusks, feet, and gigantic body.

In Assam, during the monsoon season between June and September, elephants travel long distances in herds in search of food. They feed on grass and bamboos, they consume bark of trees, wild palms, bushes, twigs and wild bananas. When an elephant is injured, its fellow members rush to its aid, often moving themselves around to protect and guard the bruised and cramped elephant, and the crippled animal is then assisted along as much as they could. People adore elephants very much and villagers gather at the spot when elephants fall in ditches. Assam is home to over 5700 Asiatic elephants, and elephants are closely associated with the people of Assam in religious as well as in cultural events. People also bow down to an elephant from a distance to get its blessings.

I once had a safari tour in an elephant with my parents as the mahout controlled the elephant when my parents took me to the Kaziranga National Park in Assam. Besides, I once got a chance to see an elephant from inside the car while moving towards Arunachal Pradesh.

A few years ago the Duke and the Duchess of Cambridge gave a visit to the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC) which is at the Kaziranga National Park. The centre follows accepted international protocols and guidelines during rescue, treatment and rehabilitation of displaced and distressed animals. The Duke and the Duchess spent a little time there with the elephants.

On 21 October, 2021, an elephant calf fell into a ditch in Dahingiapar tea estate where it was separated from its herd. It so happened that an elephant herd came out from the Holongapar Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary and entered into the tea estate in search of food, and the elephant calf got separated from the herd and fell into a ditch. Many villagers and forest officials gathered at the spot and engaged themselves to rescue the elephant calf from the ditch and they became successful.

On 24 November 2006, an elephant and it’s calf slipped into a trench in an industrial estate in the Ghoramara area of Sonitpur district of Assam. The calf has been immediately rescued and shifted to the CWRC at the Kaziranga National Park. The trench where the mother elephant and the calf fell was about 30 kilometres from the Nameri National Park. This incident happened because during the winter season elephants frequent the tea estates and it’s surroundings. After this pathetic incident, one man of the industrial estate said that they were in the process of erecting a solar fence to prevent elephants from entering the construction site. The man also said that guards were being deployed in the surrounding areas to keep a watch of the movement of the elephants.

Forest officials rescued an injured 10-day-old elephant calf from the village of Udmari at Nagaon in Assam. It so happened that on 9 November 2020, the calf had been left behind by its herd and was trapped in a mud puddle from which it was unable to come out due to its injury in the leg. The mother attempted several times to pick up her baby along but could not as the calf had a leg injury. The calf was later taken to the CWRC at Kaziranga National Park for its recovery. At CWRC orphaned and injured elephants and other animals are hand raised and treated, and subsequently released to the wild. In 9 December, 2017, a pensive incident happened at Balipara in Sonitpur district of Assam. Five adult elephants and a calf were crushed to death by a train ( Guwahati – Naharlagun Express) as the herd of elephants were trying to cross the railway line. Due to large scale deforestation for the setting up of new villages and construction of brick houses, elephants have lost their natural habitat and it has become a prime concern of the people.

I myself became dejected when I got the news that 18 elephants were found dead at Kandali Proposed Reserve Forest due to lightning in the month of May, 2018, in Assam. The death of the 18 elephants together was a horrible news for every body. I learnt later the cause of the death of the elephants was not because of food poisoning, but the death was because of lightning. When wildlife experts and veterinarians conducted postmortem they said that the death of the elephants may not be attributed to any infectious pathological agent or poison; the cause of the death of the 18 elephants was because of negative lightning flash that took place at Kandali Proposed Reserve Forest. A 10 member team of wild life experts and veterinarians had conducted the investigation at the site as well as the postmortem. In the report it was confirmed that there was no foul act or dirty work for the incident. It was later confirmed that the death of the 18 elephants was because of lightning. In all these regretful incidents of the elephants, we have seen that human beings are always alert to rescue the elephants in times of danger and in their needs. These type of happenings have become common due to deforestation and depletion of grazing grounds in the wild. People often say that herds of elephants wander to villages and roam about in tea estates as food is abundant in those places. While wandering they fall into gutter and unprotected drains of tea estates and sometimes die before the rescue team reaches the site.

World Elephant Day is observed on 12 August every year with an aim to acknowledge elephant’s significance in our ecosystem. This day tries to enlighten the people about the threats the elephants encounter in their lives. Habitat loss, poaching, and mistreatment in captivity are some of the common things elephants come across. I feel educational information about elephant conservation should be spread in large scale among all the people; people should be taught about the elephants and their environment as it will raise awareness about the peril faced by the elephants. Human-wildlife conflict is a great threat for the decline of the elephant population. Besides all these, I think people should develop a living bond with elephants as well as the caretakers of elephants and the mahouts. In order to love elephants people should watch the elephants and their habitat; and they should see how the elephants love to roam in green pastures, in spring-fed lakes, and how rapturously they trumpet in water.

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