Hurling firecrackers at wild elephant Baahubalidraws criticism (State of
Tamil Nadu, India)
Wilson Thomas, The Hindu
July 19, 2021
A recent incident in which firecrackers were hurled at a wild elephant
nicknamed Baahubali near Mettupalayam in Coimbatore district has drawn
criticism from various quarters.
After a video of the incident was widely circulated on social media,
biologists and noted personalities expressed their anguish over the
treatment meted out to the elephant.
“This is deeply deeply disturbing,” actor Dia Mirza said on Twitter in
reply to the video shared by Vivek Menon, wildlife conservationist and the
executive director of the Wildlife Trust of India.
Responding to the tweets, Supriya Sahu, Principal Secretary to Government
in Environment, Climate Change and Forest Department, Government of Tamil
Nadu, replied that the incident happened in Mettupalayam.
“We have taken a serious note of this. Forest Department immediately
conducted a flag march informing locals to desist from bursting crackers.
We are working with Collectors and local communities to ensure this is
never repeated,” she replied.
According to Forest Department officials, the incident took place at
Kurumbanoor near Mettupalayam on July 11 while driving the elephant out
from the village.
While accepting that the frontline workers of the Department hurled rocket
crackers at the elephant, an official said that people from the locality
also threw crackers at the tusker.
The Department conducted awareness rallies at three locations near
Mettupalayam on July 14 after the video of firecrackers being hurled at the
tusker went viral and many including biologists criticised the method.
A volunteer of a non-governmental organisation that is into conservation
activities said the frontline staff use around 200 rocket crackers on some
days to drive out wild elephants in forest ranges like Mettupalayam where
human-elephant conflicts were high.
Mohan Kumar, a wildlife biologist with the environmental organisation
‘Osai’, felt that negative conditioning would work only when the animal
associates the method with danger.
“If an animal gets relentlessly tormented through negative conditioning
such as crackers, they will eventually get habituated to it and will
quickly learn it is not dangerous to them. This is what is happening now.
Most males and some female elephants in Coimbatore do not respond to
cracker noise any more. This was not the case a decade ago,” he said.
According to him, eventually this would push the Department to use more
cruel methods like rubber bullets and pepper bullets, which would cause
more harm to the animal.
The incident occurred when the Department took a break in its efforts to
tranquillise and radio-collar Baahubali for study purposes.