Wild Elephants gather inexplicably, mourn death of “Elephant Whisperer” | Delight Makers
Reading a recent incident about a herd of wild elephants, visiting author and legendary conservationist Lawrence Anthony ( popularly known as “Elephant Whisperer” ) on his death reminded of my own experiences with the wild.
Growing up in the lap of the wild teaches you more about human behavior than that of an animal & the contrast is very plain to see and invariably it also teaches you the necessity of going back to the wild, adapting their ways of adjusting with each other and living in tandem with other creatures. The North East of India is home to plenty of jungles and many areas declared as Natural wild life reserves.
The Britishers were meticulous about planting a lot of fruit trees, throughout Assam, in fact they planted many even among st the wild forests. As a result, plenty of birds, squirrels and other such small animals were regular visitors in homes there in and around the forest. Growing up in the lap of nature, the first principle that we were taught was, the animals always have the first right, since it is their territory. This includes the right to the land, and food too. We learnt soon enough that animals leave you to yourself if you can respect their territory too!
It was 1.30 at night (And that is very late in small towns) when the phone suddenly rang in our house. The small oil town of Digboi sleeps pretty early. Each house rests on a small hillock and is thus separated by a valley of bushes and trees, which is usually the grazing ground of many animals. Our neighbor from the next hill warned us that an elephant herd was marching its way up our house, having trampled much fauna on their way.
In the dead of the night, we sat trembling inside the huge Bungalow, watching as nearly 20 adult and few baby elephants ravaged our backyard, which comprised the vegetable patch. The surrounding Banana plans were uprooted and devoured. But all this in so much silence that had we not been warned of their coming none of us would have ever known that there was a herd of 20 elephants making merry in the backyard! Their eating and fun over, they left in an hour’s time, having devoured most fruits and vegetables and leafy plants, but without the slightest destruction to anything else man made.
Had they wanted they could have played football with the car or tossed around the hen coop. But they left as silently, as if nothing had happened. I remember sitting in awe all night, looking at those huge creatures in the dark, silently ravaging what they thought was part of the wild. Anger was not a natural outcome, in such a scene because we were guests in what was their area. The minute each animal understands the respect of another’s territory, everything is somehow quite easy.
I remembered the case of a farmhouse( Acres Wild) built on a mountain in Coonoor by ace film maker Mansoor Khan. There are no fences in the farm that is situated practically in the middle of two mountains. The man lives with his man Friday and his wife and had told me that when he first built home on the mountain to start with the farm, the wild elephants had ravaged it. His friend in the next mountain, a planter had told him that he must have an electric fence and a gun if he were to live in the territory. The erstwhile film maker refused, saying, “ It is their territory, I leave it to them to decide whether we are welcome or not” It has been almost years since then, the elephants still come and yet they have learnt that this man is part of the locale and means no harm. They leave him to himself too. The farm still does not have any fences and there have been no incidents that strike fear in the hearts of those who stay there.
Such incidents confirm my belief every time, that it has been the animal who teaches man that with power comes grace too. Nomads with whom I made friends during many of my jaunts in the coming years in the forest taught me one lesson I never forget- 'It is their space, respect it, let them decide whether they want you to be there or not. They understand peace more than us, and if you can convey that to them, you never need to fear an animal.'