Saturday, September 08, 2007


The pitiful state of Chandaka's wild elephants

16 sec. Dial-up friendly video
The pitiful state of Chandaka's elephants

Chandaka is a small sanctuary on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar, the capital city of Orissa. It has a population of about 65 elephants, who are literally trapped next to this city in this tiny 190 sq. km. sanctuary bereft of traditional elephant migration corridors with bigger nearby habitats. However, the elephants do come over to Bharatpur, a 2600 acre patch of scrub jungle right inside Bhubaneswar, which is also part of the sanctuary. But Bharatpur has become separated from the main Chandaka forests over the last decade because of ruthless and mostly illegal real estate 'development'. This is causing severe stress to these highly intelligent creatures with emotions almost at par with humans. This has been causing human-elephant conflict to be rocketing since the last few years. Typical symptoms of what scientists have termed 'elephant rage' are being witnessed here. These highly intelligent and emotional creatures have been seen reacting to stress and conflict very much like humans. They have intelligence bordering on the capability to reason and revengeful behavior towards ever increasing human encroachment is being routinely noticed in parts of Orissa, Jharkhand, Bengal and the North-East of India.

This video was captured when I was out one afternoon on a birding trip with a couple of friends and came across a herd of elephants as we often do. But we normally see them browsing, resting and generally doing their own thing without any sort of aggression towards us. So much so, that they have over time gathered trust for us. But on this particular day, this old matriarch, to whom we refer as the 'Torn-Eared Female' wanted to cross the Khandagiri-Chandaka road in order the 10-15 km to the main Chandaka forests. She had two calves and a juvenile with her. As she hung around near the road(not visible in video, but you can hear a few vehicles plying), waiting for darkness to fall so they could cross over peacefully in its cover. But, a couple of jackasses saw the matriarch from the road and wanted to have a closer look at her. What they didn't know was that in the bushes towards which they were approaching, the calves and the juvenile were hiding. As the two men, both in white shirts (a color elephants abhor) came a bit too close, the matriarch couldn't take it any longer, and you've seen what she did. Later that evening, we waited in a temple near the road expecting them to cross. They came right up to the other side of the road. But then vehicles and people started gathering there and did not let them cross. She charged again, but retreated when the crowd and noise was too much. My friend Rudra managed to capture this even in complete darkness on his 3CCD pro- movie cam. I'll upload those videos soon. I managed to get some ISO 3200 images too which I've uploaded here. Since this particular video was captured on a little digicam, the quality is pretty poor. Throughout the incident, not even one Forest Department employee was there to control the crowd. In fact, not even one Forest Guard or watcher mans this side of the forest. This corridor is under active usage and tremendous human-induced pressure. It is only about 3-4 km from the extremely busy National Highway- 5 and Bhubaneswar's busy Baramunda area.

Following are the images I took. These are high ISO (3200) images which I took in almost complete darkness.

The elephants gathered near the road (the edge of which can be seen at the bottom
of the image)

People just did not let them cross. They had to retreat. Nobody from the Forest Dep-
-artment was there to control the situation- and this is supposed to be a sanctuary!
How will elephants NOT kill people if they are continually harassed like this?

The very same elephant a few weeks before this incident.
A picture of calm and peace when left unmolested and unprovoked

More images from here and other places visited by me can be seen here:

Your views and comments will be greatly appreciated.

All rights reserved.
Copyright, 2007, Aditya C. Panda
Video courtesy: Dillip Naik