The Wildlife Filmmaker Focuses On Challenges Faced By Elephants And How Their Survival Is Threatened By Loss Of Habitat And Human Interference

If wildlife filmmaker and elephant conservationist Sangita Iyer had her approach, there could be no elephants in captivity in India. Processions led by elephants could be a factor of the previous.

That, she insists, is the necessity of the hour due to the 40,000 elephants on our planet, 55% occur to be in India. Asian elephants are on the endangered species’ record of The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Sangita says India is their final bastion. “Male elephants are declining dramatically, as they are targeted by poachers for their tusks, and exploited in “cultural festivals” of Kerala. Of the 27,000-odd wild elephants, simply over 1,000 of them are bull elephants. This will inevitably trigger inbreeding, resulting in deformities and lethal ailments, threatening the long-term survival of the species,” she explains.

As a part of a world-wide marketing campaign to boost consciousness about Asian elephants, Sangita has made a 26-part brief docu-series, Asian Elephants 101.

Five brief movies will probably be aired on Nat Geo TV India in seven languages, interspersed with varied programmes on World Elephant Day, which falls on August 12. Nat Geo WILD YouTube can also be airing a number of segments by means of August and September.

Asian Elephants 101 focusses on subjects associated to captive and wild elephants. Some cowl ecological significance of elephants, how they convey and their distinctive personalities. “Those show how much they are like us, and help us understand the need to respect their role in the web of life, shedding light on our connectedness with elephants and interdependence,” she explains.

Human-Elephant Conflict

The movies expose the realities of human-elephant battle leading to mindless tragedies. A number of segments on captive elephants reveal how confinement and fixed abuse terrorise and traumatise these animals, resulting in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

“Some of the short films offer hope for captive elephants such as model sanctuaries in the US and rehabilitation centres in Karnataka and Assam.”

Sangita says it’s outrageous that elephants are exploited for revenue behind the insidious veil of tradition and faith. Her movie Gods in Shackles had proven that exploitation of elephants for revenue in spiritual and cultural festivals is fuelled by public demand.

“If people refuse to participate in cultural festivals that exploit elephants, that would be a first major step in ending elephant slavery. Gods in Shackles created significant awareness of the problem. People are now realising the dark truth behind the insidious veil of glamorous parades,” she says. She hopes extra spiritual establishments swap to life-size look-alike elephants. “All ‘live elephants’ must be retired and rehabilitated,” she insists.

Sangita believes that she was destined to talk up for the jumbos. As a toddler in Alathur village of Palakkad, her grandparents used to take her to their household temple, the place she was allowed to play with a tusker. “My grandma used to tell me that at three, I had asked her why the elephant had chains around his legs and I didn’t. So, my grandma bought me anklets and said, “now you have chains too”. But I nonetheless needed to know why the elephant’s legs had been tied collectively and never mine. I’ve all the time felt a soulful connection in the direction of elephants,” she recollects.

In 2013, Sangita, who lives in Canada, visited a number of temples in India and noticed severely injured elephants. That was when she knew she needed to expose the atrocities in opposition to these sentient animals. She indignantly recollects how elephants with ghastly wounds, chains chopping into their flesh, and even blind elephants had been being paraded. “The bull elephants of Kerala, especially in their prime mating period – the musth cycle, are shackled day and night and left to starve. The handlers and owners do this to deplete their energy and make them subservient to commands.”

She provides that although The Kerala Captive Elephant Management Rules doc gives pointers, many homeowners and brokers exploit loopholes in it as a result of the legal guidelines don’t clearly articulate particular penalties for flouting the legal guidelines.

“The government must mend the regulations and enforce the laws. Provisions must be there to allow non-profit organisations to create sanctuaries. There is a dearth of information regarding captive elephant welfare. Handlers are unaware of compassionate techniques, proper foot care, mud bath etc. Although capture and interstate transportation of elephants have been banned, they are still being captured illegally from Assam, Bihar and Arunachal Pradesh and transported to Kerala,” she says.

Talking concerning the Kottoor Elephant Rehabilitation Centre close to Thiruvananthapuram, she says it’s higher than all different authorities run centres in Kerala. The lake, and the forest space surrounding the rehab centre provide a sense of wilderness. “With the support of former Chief Wildlife Warden Surendra Kumar, I had invited a renowned elephant foot care specialist and positive reinforcement trainer – Steve Koyle. He provided hands-on training to mahouts, who now have a completely changed attitude towards elephants.”

Need For Coexistence

With regards to the plight of untamed elephants, Sangita factors out that reckless land use is the principle purpose for human-elephant battle. Tribal folks coexist harmoniously with elephants and the pure world.

Elephants want extra space, as they wander throughout huge areas looking for meals and mates 16 to 18 hours a day. “However, land owners, who own vast areas inside the forest cultivate bananas, arecanuts, rubber plantations etc., sucking up forest resources including fresh water, and preventing elephants from drinking water in their own habitats. I have visited the North Nilambur area in Wayanad where the owners have installed electrical fencing that prevents wild elephants from reaching water resources! The elephants are doomed if they stay inside the forest because they don’t have enough vegetation to graze on. They are doomed if they step outside the forest to feed on crops as they are assaulted and brutalised by farmers. So where should they go?”

She causes that the answer lies in shopping for the land from those that personal plantations contained in the forests, in order that elephants can reclaim their misplaced land and keep contained in the forests. “Empowering those living on the forest fringes by providing them with basic tools and enough resources – financial and knowledge based – as well as incentives to protect elephants will go a long way in creating a harmonious coexistence.”

She maintains that The Wildlife Protection Act 1972 needs to be up to date, as circumstances have modified drastically over the previous 50 years. Sangita explains that many departments have to work collaboratively. “For occasion, the railway division must handle practice speeds to make sure that elephants aren’t killed on railway tracks; the electrical energy division should be certain that the wires within the forest areas are insulated and secure for migrating elephants; freeway and transportation departments should implement pace limits to make sure that elephants crossing highways usually are not hit and killed. Given that we’ve got encroached into their land, it’s incumbent on people to make sure that we accommodate the wants of the elephants.

If there may be one factor she has learnt from the elephants, it’s coexistence.


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