Feb 24, 2017

Save Orissa’s Giant Refugees—Elephants Abused by Human Mobs

Elephant herds in the forests of eastern India are being attacked by human beings who have intruded into areas that were once wilderness.


Supriya Vohra

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This wildlife campaign hopes to end the conflict.

In the patches of forests and fields that fringe Bhubaneshwar city, Orissa, a herd of elephants is caught in constant conflict. The elephants are regularly harassed and abused by humans who live in nearby villages.

Cara Tejpal, a wildlife conservationist with Sanctuary Nature Foundation, and her colleagues witnessed this abuse in December 2016, when they had gone to recce the area for a documentary project.

“It was a horrific sight. There were about 300 men, many of them drunk on local liquor, just harassing the poor elephants, not letting them pass through,” she told The Outdoor Journal.

The elephants arrived in the area about five years ago, after wandering away from the Chandaka-Dampara Wildlife Sanctuary nearby, as it had degraded over time. For several years, the elephants have ambled through rural lands and patches of Athgarh Forest Division nearby, resting in the day and moving at night, in constant search for food and the next place for shelter.

As evening descends, mobs of people begin harassing these gentle giants. “The frenzy of the mob is overwhelming. This isn’t even an exercise in defence, because there aren’t any crops or homesteads for them to protect. This is pure entertainment for them,” Cara fumed.

Human mob running after an elephant in Athgarh Forest Division. Photo © Karan Tejpal
Human mob running after an elephant in Athgarh Forest Division. Photo © Karan Tejpal

Hunting is a prohibited activity under India’s Wild Life Protection Act (1972). This includes, “capturing, coursing, snaring, trapping, driving or baiting any wild or captive animal and every attempt to do so;” as well as “injuring or destroying or taking any part of the body of any such animal.”

The abuse of elephants is punishable under this act, but no action has been taken yet.

To combat this, Cara and her team—Orissa-based conservationist Aditya Chandra Panda, filmmakers Ishaan Ghosh, Karan and Tiya Tejpal have launched a public campaign with Sanctuary Nature Foundation to appeal to Orissa’s Chief Minister to take appropriate action.

How To Participate in the Campaign
STEP 1: Share the link to the campaign video above with Naveen Patnaik, the Chief Minister of Orissa.

STEP 2: Ask him to take urgent action to protect the refugee elephants of Athgarh by:

* Directing police intervention to control mobs so that the elephants are allowed undisturbed passage.

* Setting up a task force to effect the restoration of the Chandaka-Dampara Wildlife Sanctuary, and to secure and revive its corridors to the Kapilas Wildlife Sanctuary and the Satkosia landscape in the state.

Send him an email at: with a copy to:
Tweet to him @Naveen_Odisha with the hashtag #GiantRefugees.
Note:Taken from Sanctuary Asia’s page.

“The only immediate solution to this is police intervention to control the mob,” Cara explained in a telephone conversation. “The elephants just want a safe passage to go to their next destination.”

“As a long term measure, the Chandaka-Dampara Sanctuary, and the forest corridors that connect it to other wilderness areas in the state HAVE to be revived,” she said.

Herd martriarch Laxmi and her daughter Moti caress each other with their trunks as the mob closes in on them. Photo © Karan Tejpal
Herd martriarch Laxmi and her daughter Moti caress each other with their trunks as the mob closes in on them. Photo © Karan Tejpal

“The forest authorities are not empowered enough to take action, so this NEEDS to be directed by the chief minister. So far, over 150 individuals have written emails to the CM demanding his intervention, and dozens have reached out to him on social media, including several celebrities. We are keeping our fingers crossed for a miracle,” she said on a final note.

The Indian elephant (Elephas maximus) has been listed endangered by the IUCN since 1986, since their population has declined by 50% in the last 75 years. The elephant is an intelligent, social and sentient being. They need forest corridors to roam around freely, their habitat restored to grow and play freely. They deserve respect and freedom. Help them by taking part in this campaign.

Feature Image © Aditya Chandra Panda

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