In an incident in the tea gardens of Assam, a mother Elephant was able to successfully rescued her calf from a ditch without getting disturbed by the crowd that had gathered. Members of IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) and WTI (Wildlife Trust of India) arrived on the scene to control the crowd and thus peacefully resolve a situation that could have easily turned into yet another negative human-animal conflict incident.
The Lokhoojan Tea Gardens lies between the Karbi Anglong hills and Nambor Reserve Forest of Assam and elephant sightings are quite common in the area. However, last month when tea plantation workers were starting off the day of work, they heard the plaintive trumpet of a mother elephant from the southern side and located her throwing mud. They soon realised that her calf was trapped in a tea garden trench.
Elephant calves getting trapped in tea garden trenches in Assam is very common and accounts for the displacement of a third of young calves in Assam. This particular place was quite near the residential colony of tea pluckers at the edge of the tea garden. The tea garden is divided into two hillocks with a low-lying paddy field in between. The elephant was seen atop the southern side hillock, clearly in distress over her calf in trouble.
Judging the situation, Honorary Wildlife Warden of Kaziranga, Uttam Saikia asked for help from IFAW-WTI team located nearby at the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC). The IFAW-WTI members found a distraught mother elephant trying to get her calf across the deep trench that cut the tea garden off from the forest. As the calf was hardly a few weeks old, it was not able to make it on its own.
The news of the mishap spread and people from around the area started gathering to view the spectacle. Although a wild encounter is always an attraction for people, it is a big stressor for the animal itself, that wishes to go back to its jungle in peace and not used to seeing so many humans or the noise they make.
It is exactly this panic that gives rise to animal attacks which is often shown as a brutal beast trying to hurt humans, whereas most often the animal is simply afraid of the crowd and trying to defend itself the best way it can. The fact is true for all animals seen in human habitats, whether elephants, leopards or tigers.
Smart Crowd Management
Thankfully, in this case, there were people around who knew how to keep people at bay and let the mother elephant rescue her calf without any disturbances.
Knowing the situation could turn worse soon, the IFAW-WTI team members with help from forest department officials and tea garden management personnel successfully convinced the locals to stay away from the place to let the mother elephant work and execute her rescue plan.
“Once the crowd dispersed at a safe distance, we saw the mother started to fill up the trench with soil and branches so that she could take the baby out of the scene. She continued this till afternoon and we were elated to see her walk into the forest with her calf,” said Panjit Basumatary, IFAW- WTI veterinarian who was on standby for any medical help.
Incidents such as these are growingly becoming common in India. If people become more sensitive to animal behaviour, it might help avoid many conflicts and help saves both human and animal lives.
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