Posts Tagged With: human animal conflict

Are Elephants More Compassionate than People?

With 1.2 billion people in India, space is at a premium. A growing population, means less land for animals, quite the conundrum since this is also home to the largest land mammal on Earth.

As elephants follow routes they’ve traveled for decades, villages crop up in their paths forcing elephants and people closer together, often resulting in a deadly battle for survival. Under pressure from higher population densities, interruption of their normal routes, and lack of fodder, elephant populations are increasingly turning to crop raiding for sustenance. They can easily destroy a farmer’s livelihood in a matter of hours.

With their homes and earnings on the line, villagers will go to any means necessary to keep their families safe. Villagers fight back with electrocution, shooting, poisoning and hakka patas  (a mixture of explosive matter, lead and iron made into a ball, which is inserted into a cucumber or a pumpkin).

elephant and baby hakka pata

A baby stands by his mother, who died from a hakka pata.

Human/elephant conflict is an epidemic in India.  In fact, up to 20% of elephant deaths in India stem directly from crop defense.

But people are not the only ones who are frustrated and concerned with protecting their families. Elephants are fighting back. They’ve been known to destroy not only the crops, but homes, schools and parts of villages.

In one such recent attack in West Bangal, an elephant crashed through the wall of a home. The family, who was eating dinner, ran to the area of the attack to find an elephant standing over their baby, with pieces of the wall lying about. The elephant began moving away until the baby began crying. The elephant returned to the baby and using its trunk, gently removed the debris from around the baby. He then moved off, back into the forest.

elephant attacks house 1

Elephant attacks home.

Amazingly, this is not an isolated incident. Six months previously an elephant herd carefully removed a little girl from harm’s way before smashing several houses.

So while both man and beast are vying for space, and warring for survival in an ever-shrinking world, it seems at the heart of it, the elephant is the better species. With a gentle nature and knowing spirit, even the “beast” senses the innocence of a child.


When elephants consume hakka patas, the food explodes in their mouths causing pain, an inability to eat or drink, and ultimately a slow and painful death. Adult elephants are usually intelligent and experienced enough to identify the deadly meal as a trick, but juvenile and baby elephants often fall victim to the traps. It is a cruel way to go.

Please read, sign and share the following petition to tell Sri-Lanka to stop the inhumane practice of hakka patas:

Sri-Lanka: Stop the use of Hakka patas used to kill elephants

Categories: Rhino Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

No Vacancy?

Kruger National Park, South Africa: A tourist couple were following a bull elephant, attempting to get pictures. At one point, he turned and charged the car, turning it over into the bushes. The woman was seriously injured, and had to be transported to a nearby hospital.

car from elephant attack

Car attacked by elephant in Kruger.

The bull was in musth, which is a time in which their testosterone is extremely high, they are sexually active and quite aggressive. It is obvious by their swollen temporal glands which emit a fluid that runs down their cheeks.

The couple have survived, the elephant was not so lucky. Officials at the park had decided to put him down, due to his aggression.

There has been outrage expressed by some on behalf of the elephant. Afterall, the elephant was doing what elephants do. It is up to people to educate themselves on animal behavior, and it is a known risk they take by entering the park. Surely, this could have been avoided.

Unfortunately this is only one of multiple incidences, not just in South Africa, but globally. With 7 billion people on the planet, and dwindling habitats for animals, everyone is running dangerously short on elbow room.


Kenya fights these battles as well. The country loses 100 lions a year due to human conflict. Most of this is in retaliation of villagers for their goats or cattle being killed. This epidemic, coupled with disease,  could well lead to no lions in the country within just 20 years. This dismal disappearance is seen throughout the dark continent, with lions gone from 80% of their original African range.

Elephants are players in the conflict here as well. Crop farming, charcoal burning and human settlements have attributed to just some of the casualties on both sides. 35 people are killed from elephants each year, yet at least 100  elephants are killed daily.

beehives near elephants

Kenyan farmers are using beehives as a natural elephant deterrent, which has proven 97% effective in thwarting attacks.

There are individual stories from people for whom the elephants create havoc on their crops, on their daily lives. David Kimita, a 45-year-old farmer and father of four, blames elephants for the breakdown of his marriage. Every time he plants crops, elephants raid his farm, leaving him with nothing for his family.

“My wife depended on me for food, so when there was none, she decided to go – four years ago,” he said

In 1994, Kenya began a Problem Animal Management Unit (PAMU) due to the challenge. The unit is composed of an elite ranger response team and responds to  interaction hotspots in the country. Villagers who lose crops or livestock are paid compensation. Without this intervention, too many animals would be lost in retaliation (more than already are).

Javan leopard in W Java killed after it invaded a house (CIFOR)

A rare Javan Leopard was killed after she invaded a house
photo courtesy of CIFOR

Bangalore, India:

Since April of 2013, there have been 30 human deaths due to human/animal conflict.  23 of the attacks were from elephants , with the rest from tigers, leopards, wild boars and bears.

With an increasing number of people within the area and less forests,  more occurrence of human/animal contact is inevitable. In India alone, hundreds of people die from elephant attacks annually, and  an estimated 10-12,000 people a year are killed by venomous snakes.  Forest officials expect this number to climb even higher in 2014.

It’s not just people who are harmed. All over India  elephant/train accidents are becoming all too common, as the tracks intersect common elephant corridors (see: Growing Pains and Speeding Trains)  Decreased habitat and illegal trade contribute to approximately four leopards killed every week. Tigers are also under the gun, literally. At least 39 tigers were poached in 2013, the highest in seven years.

So what’s to be done?

Clearly lions and leopards do not know the difference between livestock and wild animals-prey is prey. Elephants have been taking the same routes in grazing and everyday activity for decades, without anyone giving them notice that villages and train tracks are now being built in their paths.

By 2024 with the human population expected to hit the 8 billion mark, this is an issue that is not going away.

Humans are the more “intelligent”,  reasoning creatures (supposedly). If we are to prevent extinction of animals, and preserve flora and fauna, it is imperative to act now. Unity between communities and conservation organizations, as well as land and resource management are key. For just as we are the destroyers, we need to be the saviors.

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.”
Mahatma Gandhi

no vacany

Categories: Rhino Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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