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The battle for survival inside the projects

First agriculture shrank the forests, then a shifting zeitgeist compelled Congress to ban both hunting and the capture of wild elephants: Elephants deprived of traditional feeding grounds took to crop invasion, hungry farmers retaliated.

Elephants kill 200-300 Indians a year. Up in the West Garo hills of Meghalaya I once saw rioting villagers brandishing flaming torches on the streets after elephants had trampled four children to death.

Shand became involved in the late 1980s. On a whim, he bought an emaciated captive elephant, christened her Tara and rode her 750 miles from Konarak on the Bay of Bengal to the Sonepur Mela, the ancient elephant trading fair on the Ganges at Patna.

Battle for Survival – is the Great Barrier Reef Really Dying?

Travels with My Elephant, the best-selling book that emerged from the trip, recounts an unlikely love story. Producers have come knocking, but Shand is determined to keep control. The pecs are a bit saggy these days, but he still has it. Although he is based in London he travels widely on filmmaking assignments, and fits in as many visits as possible to Tara at her retirement home, Kipling Camp, on the edge of the Kanha Tiger Reserve in central India.

For his next book, Queen of the Elephants, he qualified as a mahout, or elephant-handler, learning the language evolved from Sanskrit and mounting his charge via the trunk. In Travels he had noted that 'The Indian elephant was running out of living space.

There are only 50,000 of them, compared with half a million African ones. Yet bigger, uglier African elephants grab all the attention. Elephants eat so much that they have to keep moving — they are social nomads.

Herds have followed the same routes for centuries.

  1. In chapters ten to twelve, Mitter shows why he, the author of Manchurian Myth and A Bitter Revolution 2005 7 , is able to tell this tale particularly well; combining CCP, collaborationist, and GMD resistance narratives is extraordinarily difficult, but he manages to present the story with unusual clarity. Although a family or group of families will be moved only a few miles, each unit is methodically assessed for up to a year to ensure an official will be met in the new environment.
  2. He had spotted pug marks.
  3. Back to 2 Jay Taylor, The Generalissimo.
  4. After they bleach, these stressed corals either slowly regain their zooxanthellae and colour as temperatures cool off, or else they die. Back to 2 Jay Taylor, The Generalissimo.
  5. And time is something the Great Barrier Reef could well be running out of.

If their passage is blocked, they seek food elsewhere — among crops. Preserving the corridors between habitats has become crucial for both sides in the battle for land in India. The south-western state of Kerala on the Malabar Coast is defined by the Western Ghats, the sinuous mountain range that for centuries protected Kerala from mainland invaders. Top of many human development indices — life expectancy, reduction of rural poverty — and with low rates of infant mortality, the state also boasts the highest literacy rate in India 91 per cent.

Shand and I were headed for the Wayanad highlands in the far north-east of Kerala, a landscape of rosewood groves, rice paddies and misty peaks. Although the region is patchworked with rubber and tea plantations, swaths of deciduous secondary forest remain intact and, as a result, Wayanad hosts the largest single elephant population in Asia. In the heart of Wayanad, the fertile Thirunelli district is known for cardamom, cashews and multitudinous banana species Malayalam has as many words for banana as Inuktitut has for ice.

  • In the heart of Wayanad, the fertile Thirunelli district is known for cardamom, cashews and multitudinous banana species Malayalam has as many words for banana as Inuktitut has for ice;
  • Hydrogen ions will even start dissolving hard coral and shells to get carbonate if the free-floating supply runs short.

The land is pocketed with modest farm holdings and roadside stalls pedalling jaggery sugar to pilgrims on their way to the Vishnu temple on the Thirunelli escarpment. But Thirunelli, with its dense bamboo groves, is a hot spot of elephant-human conflict, especially around the crucial migration corridor linking the Nilgiri Hills to the south with the much smaller Brahmagiri Hills to the north.

  • Menon had just flown down from Delhi to join WTI field officers working on a long-term project to protect a migration corridor;
  • Its horny bulk blocked the sun.

After a serpentine five-hour drive from the coast along a vertiginous slope, we arrived at Thirunelli. Menon had just flown down from Delhi to join WTI field officers working on a long-term project to protect a migration corridor.

As we drove into the jungle, sharp rays filtered through the bamboo hatchings, dappling stands of turmeric. A troop of langur monkeys swung between yellow laburnum blooms, and a mongoose darted behind a termite mound. A tall, mustachioed figure, Menon is the son of the engineer who designed the fabled Ambassador car, long a fixture of urban India.

Eleven years later, the organisation employs 150 staff and has more conservation projects on the go than any other NGO in India. They think of swami and the Himalaya.

The battle for survival inside the projects

Population growth, industrial development, poverty, political incompetence, corruption — everything is stacked against the Asian elephant. Small wonder that hardly a day goes by without a gory story appearing in the papers somewhere in India reporting on hungry, marauding tuskers killing people in their desperate search for food. Small wonder too that farmers such as Chami take the law into their own hands.

The author of half a dozen influential books on the politics of conservation, in the 1990s Menon focused on poaching, going undercover in Japan and China for two years to expose illegal ivory trading. Menon suddenly asked the driver to cut the engine.

Tuskers in trouble - man and elephant battle for survival

He had spotted pug marks. The silence of the forest was broken only by the sound of an elephant trunk cracking bamboo. Then we heard the low trumpeting of a ship leaving port, and a tusker crashed through the rosewood, ears flapping with regal indifference.

Its horny bulk blocked the sun.

  • A troop of langur monkeys swung between yellow laburnum blooms, and a mongoose darted behind a termite mound;
  • Back to 2 Jay Taylor, The Generalissimo;
  • But as Shand said, can we let this majestic animal become extinct on our watch?

A blue-winged Malabar parakeet streaked across the glade in an iridescent flash. After a few minutes, the elephant backed into a glade of lilies, executed a slow three-point turn, and vanished back into the forest. Elephant Family is working in partnership with WTI to secure the 42-mile Thirunelli-Kudrakote corridor, a vital funnel route for elephants, only half a mile wide at its narrowest point.

Third, you have to relocate some of the people living within the corridor. Although a family or group of families will be moved only a few miles, each unit is methodically assessed for up to a year to ensure an official will be met in the new environment.

  1. The elephant raised her head, the profile of the trunk sharp against the setting sun.
  2. In May 250 60in tall fibreglass elephants will stand on plinths across London, only to vanish mysteriously overnight later in the summer in a cunning representation of extinction. Coffee bushes and pepper vines extended up the hill behind.
  3. Shand became involved in the late 1980s. First agriculture shrank the forests, then a shifting zeitgeist compelled Congress to ban both hunting and the capture of wild elephants.
  4. At the other extreme, sceptics of man-made climate change dismissed the bleaching as either exaggerated or part of a natural cycle — or both. He is the sole breadwinner in a family of nine.

We visited one of the first successful Malayalee relocations: On the front porch of a tiled bungalow, a carpet of coffee beans lay drying under a satellite dish. Inside, Kaliawa, the chatelaine, pointed out amenities, her tough hands closely patterned with henna.

Our new house is nearer the market where we sell our crops. And we got three bullock-loads more coffee this year. At the relocated Valiya Emmadi community five miles away, a sequence of more compact bungalows sloped between neat rows of amaryllis.

Coffee bushes and pepper vines extended up the hill behind. As we sipped tiny glasses of sugary ginger tea, I asked Menon why such a small settlement had two wells. After Bihar and Orissa, Kerala has a larger tribal population than any other state 1.

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But as Shand said, tribal peoples gained little, as, to garner more votes, Congress altered the terms of the act to make it apply to all forest dwellers. The rest are forest-dwellers and chancers. His face twisted in the late afternoon light. Later, he told me he found solace in the Hindu concept of acceptance. The success of WTI relocations have made an impact in the Indian media. But sustained funding is crucial. In May 250 60in tall fibreglass elephants will stand on plinths across London, only to vanish mysteriously overnight later in the summer in a cunning representation of extinction.

The models will later be auctioned. The project was inspired by a similar event in Rotterdam in 2007. Meanwhile Chami, the banana farmer who electrocuted the elephant he found tearing up his livelihood, is still awaiting trial. He will plead guilty.

He is the sole breadwinner in a family of nine. Was it really possible to protect the likes of this farmer, and to allow the wild Asian elephant to thrive unmolested? At that moment, I had my doubts. But as Shand said, can we let this majestic animal become extinct on our watch? In the last westering rays of sun, a matriarch and her calf were chewing bamboo. On the other side of the road, a few hundred yards off, a man led a bullock through a freshly harvested paddy field.

An air of unearthly calm overlay the scene. The elephant raised her head, the profile of the trunk sharp against the setting sun.