An image of a mother and baby Elephant being driven away by villagers in West Bengal armed with fire-crackers and burning tar balls has won Sanctuary Magazine's Wildlife Photography Awards for 2017. The image, taken by photographer Biplab Hazra, was taken in the Bankura District of West Benga, but is typical of the conflict with Humans experienced by Elephants across many parts of India, driven by rising Human populations.
Image entitled 'Hell is Here' depicting Elephants under attack by villagers in West Bengal. Biplap Hazra/Sanctuary Magazine.
The population of India has risen from 376 million in 1950 to 1339 million today, fuelling an expansion of both urban and agricultural land use into former wilderness areas. Many animals will simply flee such incursions, or, if unable to, are likely to end up in the cooking pots of hungry villagers. Elephants, however, are a somewhat different proposition. They are large animals, not used to being challenged by other animals in their home ranges, and typically live in matriarchal herds of up to a hundred, with herds holding large territories, criss-crossed by Elephant trails. A herd of Elephants encountering a new Human settlement, particularly a poorly defended structure, are unlikely to attempt to go round it, and are quite likely to maximise the damage they cause to show their displeasure.
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