Wildlife & Biodiversity

Coexistence & conflict, sides of the same coin: Assam villagers’ kindness towards injured elephant heartening

When an injured tusker was found in an Assam village, locals rushed to his aid with food, medical assistance 

By Jitul Kalita
Published: Tuesday 03 October 2023
Photo: David Smith / WWF-India (author provided)

Sometimes we disagree with our neighbours. But whenever there is a crisis, we move quickly to assist them. Since ancient times, humans and wildlife have lived side by side. They might not be good neighbours (from the human perspective) in the current environment, but it is impossible for one to survive without the other.

Elephants are among the wild species that encounter people most frequently, whether those interactions are favourable or unfavourable. Numerous sources demonstrate the consequences of conflict between the most intelligent and largest land animal alive today. 

The main concern of conservationists is the rising level of human intolerance toward these pachyderms because this would erode public support for protecting wildlife.

But there are good samaritans, like the ones in the following story, who help restore balance and conserve the gentle giants.

In August, a tusker elephant was spotted in the mud in Rinkhangpur village close to Bogijulee in Sonitpur district. The locals informed the forest department. The elephant was thought to have been there for three days.

After preliminary research, it was assumed that the elephant's front legs had been broken during an attack by another elephant troop. He was unable to move because of this.

After the veterinarian examined him, it was determined that the only thing that could be done for him was to feed him some painkillers. Because of his condition, he was forced to lie down in the same position until he passed away.

While it was painful to watch the elephant lying on his deathbed, the effort put in by the villagers to nurse the animal back to health with good food was reassuring. 

It was heartening to see people carrying all the food they could like rice, bananas and banana plants and bringing it to the animal who cannot go foraging. It was pleasing to see them uttering sentences like “Kha Bapa. Tur val haok de.” (Eat, dear. Good wishes to you) or “Kha Babatu. Bohut vokat asa toi. Khai joldi thik ho.” (Eat my dear. You are starving. Eat and quickly recover.), while throwing food to him. 

Seeing such a gesture towards the wild animals is tremendously pleasant as well as motivating, especially in regions where the conflict between humans and elephants has reached a breaking point. People still have a tender spot for their wild neighbours.

Jitul Kalita is an elephant biologist and project officer with the WWF-India. 

Views expressed are the author’s own and don’t necessarily reflect those of Down To Earth.

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