Amid the escalating conflicts between elephants and humans lie our failed attempts of checking the movement of these giant animals. I wonder often as they wander through and beyond the forests. And well, they are meant to be the wanderers in the wild. Unaware, they march- crossing the boundaries and the borders set by humans. Every trench, wall, and fence might just be a set of hurdles- that they attempt to overcome. For this animal of highly complex cognition- everything around them could just be a conundrum to solve.
It was this trench, with a straight retention wall on one side protecting the village from the behemoth ‘trespassers’, that captivated my attention.
When I stood startled- a fear of sliding down- at the edge of that vertical wall- at the periphery of one of the national parks, this first thought that entered my mind was- how? I bent down to inspect the footprints on the wall- which debossed all the way up and disappeared among the bushes- with the crushed grasses seeking for another life. As an art by an artist- the mud marks of those sliding legs dazzled my thoughts. Not because they were of elephants- but because there were calves’ footprints too!
How they might have climbed down? Or up, in that case? That victimized village, on the other side of that trench, stood as flabbergasted as me!
The gust of wind brought to me that strong smell of fresh dung piles from below. I requested my field brothers to climb down and collect- as I feared that I might topple over. I broke-and-opened the dung. Sprinkled with the seeds of Raggi and jack-fruits, their ordure proved that they raided the farm- must be a night ago! On their way up- they might have emptied their bowels, I guessed.
This is one such anecdote amongst hundreds where elephants have demonstrated how they alter their behaviours in response to their altered habitats. Well, this could muddle up many of us who are not just trying to understand the highly intelligent animal- the elephants- but also trying to seek a long-lasting solution to halt the accelerating conflicts between them and us. For, they (elephants) know how to bend (adapt) their behaviours like elephants!
Sanjeeta Sharma Pokharel (From ‘The field notes’)