Friday, March 03, 2017

Elephant Refugees Face Mob

credit: Aditya Chandra Panda.
A prime example of the plight of elephants in overpopulated India is taking place in the state of Orissa.  A herd of twenty-five [photo] is trapped in small patches of forest in Athgarh, a heavily populated area.  Human mobs gather when the elephants leave the forest patches in the evening to forage for food.   They are force to consume what ever they can find including crops which inevitably  brings them into conflict with homo sapiens.  The mobs harass the elephants and pelt them with stones forcing them back into the trees.  Humans as well as elephants have died in the conflict.  A wildlife official called them "giant refugees" since their forest home has largely been destroyed by human agriculture.  The herd originally lived in the Chandaka-Dampara Wildlife Sanctuary.  The protected area had a population of ninety elephants in 2001, in 2014 there were only eight remaining in the sanctuary.  The Athgarh herd was unforntunate as it did not reach the relative safety of remnant forest.  Migrating elephants have to navigate a confusing and frightening patchwork of roads, settlements, and industry to reach safety.  This situation is occurring all over India.  Mongabay has a video of the  homeless elephants facing an angry mob.

Even more regrettable is that harassing homeless elephants and their calves has become a past-time with bored humans.  Sometimes the torment can go on for hours.  Wildlife advocates want the Chandaka-Dampara sanctuary restored to these intelligent animals who have no where else to go.  Connectivity with other protected areas also needs to be established and improved.  Official response to the problem has been nil until now.