Talking of jumbos

The highlight of the three-day-event was the screening of the ground-breaking film ‘Elephas Maximus’  by French filmmaker Philippe Gautier and Prajna Chowta. The couple live in Madikeri, which shelters a vast population of elephants.

The 52-minute-documentary highlights the unique relationship between people and elephants in Asia since ancient times and the current problems of not just shrinking habitats but conflicts in semi-urban areas due to fragmented habitats as well.
Part of the event also included an exhibition of pictures on the Asian elephant culled from different sources including Prof Sukumar’s lectures and presentations. Known for his pioneering work and study on the Asian elephant, Sukumar talked about the larger issues of conservation, and the pressing need to have a uniform humane code of conduct and treatment especially for elephants in captivity.

“The good news is that India is still home to 60 percent of the global elephant population in Asia. However, we cannot be complacent as there is still a long way to go before we can feel that the elephant population is safe and free from threat. Rampant poaching of ivory in the past has led to a skewed male female sex ratio which needs to be addressed,” he explains.

One in three elephants in Asia are held in captivity and used for ceremonial, religious and commercial activities like logging. “We want to come out with a hand book on a code of humane treatment for elephants in captivity. Sure, our religious and historical traditions involve the use of elephants as part of the rituals and practices, but we do not need to burden an elephant with a 1000-kg howdah during processions like Dasera when a well-made replica will weigh only about 100 kg and not harm the elephant in any way,” he explains.

“A long-term plan targeting a reduction of human-elephant conflicts, through a variety of measures needs to be put in place. It calls for a deeper understanding of elephant biology, movements and corridor mapping to remove barriers that lead to conflicts,” he adds.

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