Tigers and elephants are the cornerstones of an ecosystem. While one protects forests, the other ensures its maintenance. Now, after centuries of pillaging by humans, there are hardly any tigers left and elephants have no forests to maintain. The result has been fragmented forests, leaving elephants homeless. This has resulted in severe conflicts with humans.
It is imperative now that we understand the importance of the tiger and other key species and the role each plays in an ecosystem. Not only that, since we are at a conflict crisis, it is also imperative that we understand the importance of coexistence, as that is the only alternative left for us before we lose all our important species. Coexistence can happen only if we understand the reality on ground, the difficulties faced by people, the forest department and the elephants, so that solutions can be effectively implemented for us to survive peacefully and sustainably.
Speaking to us about his latest project, ‘Living with Elephants’, conservationist and actor Joydip Kundu said, “One of our stories aims to create awareness about this situation. In the forested parts of Bengal’s West Midnapur district, man is at conflict with one of the world’s largest mammals, the elephant. Every day, every hour, and every inch of land, is part of the fight for survival. For many centuries, elephants have roamed this forest of southwest Bengal, which has no natural corridor. Yet they have passed on their knowledge of the routes to their young ones. But today, their routes are marked as fields, which, for many, are their sources of livelihood. Livelihood for the humans and food for elephants — that’s at the core of conflict. And that too, is a matter of life and death. As herds are chased from village to village after they raid fields, crops, houses and granaries inside villages, it’s a mammoth task for the forest department to mitigate and manage this conflict.”
‘Living with Elephants’ is a narrative by Sashidhar Vempala, who is known for his documentary films on wildlife conservation. He is the scriptwriter and director of this film that narrates this acute human-elephant conflict onscreen. The documentary has been filmed to raise awareness on the seriousness of the issue and the challenges faced by the three parties – the elephants, the villagers and the forest department.