“The reason an elephant attacks humans or property is loss of habitat,” says the elephant trainer.
Murthy killed 21 people and terrorized entire villages in South India for many years. He escaped the death penalty and was re-educated to get a new life, avoiding the attacks of other wild elephants hunted by deforestation.
The 58-year-old large gray flandigrade, identified by bright pink spots with spots on its face, trampled 12 people in the southern state of Kerala.
Despite authorities ordering his death, Murthy fled to the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu, where he killed 10 more.
However, the elephant, which was captured in 1998 and sent to the Theppakadu training camp, was “banned from harming the elephant” by the state government, said its trainer Kirumaran.
“Since I trained Murthy many years ago, he has been an innocent child and has not hurt anyone,” the 55-year-old told AFP.
“It’s so quiet, it doesn’t hurt if a little kid plays with it or I hug it,” he insists.
Established in 1927, the Theppakadu Elephant Camp is the largest in India. Semi-wild but trained, these elephants, known as “kumkis” like Murthy, are brought in every morning for deep cleaning and then left in the wild at night.
These animals are trained to help with physical activity. The carrying capacity of up to 150 kg makes them useful workers.
But the plant species serve as “environmental engineers,” spending 16 hours each day feeding on their surroundings, helping to reforest.
Fear of attacks
The most important thing for the communities around the field is that these animals frequently and aggressively prevent the intrusion of wild elephants, which enter populated areas in search of food.
Our children are suffering because wild elephants are coming to the village, ”said Shanti Ganesh, a woman who lives nearby.
“Kids have to go to school on the main road. We are always worried that they may be attacked, ”he stressed.
Working with their “mahouts” who are elephant trainers The Theppakadu herd is trained to cope physically And drive wild plants out of the village.
Sometimes they help to encircle intruders so they are brought into the field and trained to serve the local people.
“Here, Shankar, he attacked three people in the village and we were ordered to catch him,” explains “Mahout” Vikram, pointing to an animal behind him.
“We caught him with the help of other ‘Kumkis’ and now we are training him too.”
‘They are starving’
According to the World Wildlife Fund, there are about 25,000 elephants in India. This is 60% of the number of wild elephants in Asia.
But human infiltration into its forests has created conflict. “The reason elephants attack humans or their possessions is because of the loss of habitat,” said coach Kirumaran.
“All the forests where they lived have become cities or villages for humans. They are starving, ”he argues.
More than 2,300 people have died in elephant attacks in the five years to 2019, According to data from the Government of India. During the same period, more than 500 elephants died, 333 elephants were electrocuted, and hundreds of elephants were hunted or poisoned.
Anand Kumar of the Indian Nature Conservation Foundation assures that the elephants were involved in the deadly attacks and may have been caused by the violent attitude of the humans who tried to drive them away.
“That elephant may have been hunted for months,” he told AFP. “It’s a kind of torture and the elephants have to stand up,” he adds.
The activist says he witnessed the elephant being shot several times, and a veterinarian extracted a hundred bullets from its body after it died.
Experts say an end to this conflict between humans and elephants depends on protecting and expanding the habitat of these large animals and creating walkways connecting isolated forests.
“When considering a development plan, you need to take into account the impact of organisms such as elephants and people in these forest areas,” says Kumar. (I)
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