Biplab Hazra’s photograph titled “Hell is Here,” shot in West Bengal’s Bankura district, won the Sanctuary Wildlife Photography Award of the year on Wednesday.
The photograph captures a screaming baby elephant and its mother running in confusion and pain down the
middle of a road. “The heat from the fire scorches their delicate skin as mother and child attempt to
flee the mob…Flaming tar balls and crackers fly through the air to a soundtrack of human laughter and
shouts,” Mr. Hazra described in the caption of the picture, published in sanctuaryasia.com.
The man-elephant conflict has been happening throughout the country. India consists of over 70 per cent
of the global population of Asian elephants, and reports of clashes between humans and elephants in
other States of India – Tamil Nadu, Assam, Chhatisgarh, and Odisha, home to these pachyderms – are
In Bengal alone, there are about about 700 elephants. North Bengal, which has relatively vast forest
patches, sustains about 600 elephants, but south Bengal, which now has about 140-150 elephants, “cannot
sustain” such large population, ecologist and expert on elephants Professor Raman Sukumar, told The
Hindu last year.
The rage of the elephant is often a reaction to the cruelty it faces. In a separate interview,
Karnataka’s state-appointed honorary wildlife warden Nirad Muthanna explains: “Elephants have very
sensitive ears. They get annoyed when exposed to loud noises like crackers going off. It is a
completely unfamiliar atmosphere for them.”
Although there are many steps taken by the authorities and conservationists to deal with the man-
elephant conflict, a feasible plan is yet to be derived. It is commonly suggested that if elephants and
humans stay within clearly-defined territories, there will be less traumatic incidents for the animals
and less conflict between the two.