A video camera has captured villagers in the Indian state of Assam, beating, riding on, and eventually spearing a three-year-old elephant to death that had been abandoned by its herd after suffering an injury. The footage, available from New Delhi Television (NDTV) [warning: it is graphic], shows policemen standing by as the animal is killed. The incident took place a day after the Asian elephant was declared a National Heritage Animal status by Indian authorities, granting it special cultural status.
Conflict between villagers and elephants in Assam is not uncommon. Clearing forests in the region for agricultural has led elephants to raid fields, prompting anger and frustration from poor farmers dependent on their crop for their livelihood. According to NDTV, two weeks ago four elephants were found dead in tea plantation near Kaziranga National Park. Authorities believe they were poisoned as revenge from locals. People are also often killed in this run-in between expanding human and shrinking elephant populations. A number of conservation organizations are working to mitigate the conflict.
Asian elephants are listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List due to habitat loss, poaching for ivory, and human-wildlife conflict with their population suffering decline.
India holds approximately 60% of the world’s Asian elephant population with an estimated 26,000 animals. Elephants play a complex role in Indian culture, although hated by some, the species also represents the God, Ganesha, in the Hindu pantheon.
(10/12/2010) On the menu at the most recent rally for the Zimbabwe African National Union Political Front (ZANU-PF): 3 African buffalo, 3 elephants, and a lot of smaller game according to SW Radio Africa. Attended by Zimbabwe’s President and founder of ZANU-PF, Robert Mugabe, the rally also celebrated the opening of the Women’s Celebration Bank.
(09/27/2010) Customs officials found 16 pieces of cut ivory on searching a 62-year-old Malaysian man at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Thailand in August. Recently released information shows that the traveler was carrying nearly 200 pounds (90 kilograms) of ivory in four suitcases after arriving from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
(06/28/2010) A new study in Tropical Conservation Science has found that Asian elephants living in a combination of fragmented forests and agricultural landscapes still depend on natural landscapes—rivers and forests—for survival. Following two herds of Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) in the Valparai plateau among the Anamalai Hills of India for three years, researchers found that the elephants spent much of their time, relative to their availability, near rivers and amid forest fragments. When they entered agricultural landscapes they preferred Eucalyptus and coffee to tea.