Few days ago, we posted a video of a young forest department staff trying their best to save the elephant calf to be joined back to the herd that had moved away. The video, photos went viral on social media and there was so much happiness and appreciation for the staff and in particular to the forest guard Palanichamy Sarathkumar, 28 yrs to have carried over 100 kg on his shoulder and run to rejoin the calf with its mother and herd. It was a positive story full of energy and heartwarming moments. World rejoiced and celebrated the spirit of human empathy towards animals, in particular to the young calf. Guard was a hero!
And within few days, in fact less than 48 hours, we have another story of distress when ill informed, short sighted and selfish humans didn't do the right thing, getting back the calf to the herd. India's wildlife challenge is so complex and differs from region to region and state to state. There is no single conduct of discipline and consideration.
This headline that appeared in the media is a sad and disturbing narrative:
Selfie mob separates elephant calf from mother.
The Nilgiri Biosphere is vast landscape of extraordinary vegetation and habitat ideal for elephants. Banidpur Tiger reserve and National Park is a part of the biosphere and the UNESCO world heritage, the Western Ghats. Elephants emerging out of the forest boundaries and visiting the agricultural land is increasingly more and more. Though elephants are very protective of the young calf around, in few incidents when the elephants are driven away by sound and noise by humans, they retreat fast and the young calf couldn't keep up with the pace of it. I am sure the mother was stressed, but couldn't do anything else but run away from the marauding humans.
It can happen to humans too, in a large gathering when there is chaos mother and child get separated and then often the child is taken away without a care by the humans to understand the gravity of the action. Soon, a perfectly healthy child with the motherly love becomes an orphan! Travesty of life takes over and the child grows up in an entirely different circumstances.
Animals too have this situation. In this tragic incident, humans who are the caretakers and protectors of the animals and everything around showed their different side of character. Yes, we all love elephants and more so baby elephant. But we are unfortunately ill educated and not empowered with knowledge to think what happens, when we go to spend too much time around the separated calf. Often the adult elephants don't accept them back into the herd. In this case, the stress of the selfie mob piled onto the young calf and it couldn't cope up with people surrounding and pulling it around. Imagine a young boy or girl separated from mother!!!!
The calf didn't live to be rejoined with the mother. It neither became an orphan nor gets back to the family. WE are shamelessly not empathetic and took away a young calves life, which takes over 21 months to come to this world. Just give a moment of thinking towards the mother who lost her baby!!!! Perhaps, we don't... that thinking doesn't suit us!!!! We just want a photo to post on social media!!!!!
In a similar incident few years ago, another elephant was picked up from another part of the forest and look at the life, chained and roped...where is the freedom that they deserve?
Dr. Thomas Grant
Professor of Journalism at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College