Ever since I have been travelling in the Nilgiris, on the way to Gudalur, through the road that passes through Mudumalai and Bandipur, on several occasions I have come across wild elephant herds.
Recently when I was on my way to Gudalur, I came across three wild elephants along the roadside, in broad daylight. We slowed our vehicle to take a photo, there was a female with calf and sub-adult male. A biker coming from the opposite side stopped when he saw the elephants, then came a bus from that direction, who covered the biker and helped him cross that patch of the road where those elephants were feeding. People were casual about it, and the bus driver knew exactly what to do for helping the biker. In a while the mother stopped by a small puddle and started drinking water from there. The calf tried to follow that, but the level of water was too low for him to suck water, his trunk was a bit short. So he found the easy way, he put his trunk in his mother’s mouth and sucked water from there.
I managed to take a shot from the moving vehicle. I never saw this kind of relaxed looking elephant mother and calf along the roads passing through elephant habitats in north Bengal, perhaps people there are too worried about elephants. In north Bengal elephants there are either revered and people flee when they see them or sometimes try to scare them away by blowing the horn while advancing the car towards the pachyderms.
Elephants and human beings have been co-existing in this region since pre-historic times, people worship elephants and have been taming elephants. In recent times, however, this area has seen a rise in human elephant conflict, and also showing a trend that people’s perception towards the pachyderms might be changing. This is true for areas especially where elephants were not present in the recent past and where there was no interaction with people, however, with changes in herd structure and loss of habitats, elephants have started venturing into new territories and people have also settled near elephant habitats, thus increasing the interaction. This needs serious strategizing and suitable measures are to be taken up to prevent and manage conflict between this magnificent animal and people.