The Elephant Whisperers, the 2022 documentary film from India that won the award for Best Documentary Short Film, in the 2023 Academy Awards, is a moving account of the bond between an orphaned baby elephant and its caretaker, high emotional quotient of the pachyderm highlighted in the film brings forth the cause of how this most intelligent mammal is being victimised for the very reason.
The award is widely welcomed by various animal rights activists, conservationists and other organizations working in the field of wildlife, as it has turned the attention towards the issue of impact on animals through human activities.
What is the movie, The Elephant Whisperers about?
The Elephant Whisperers depicts the touching tale of Bomman and Bellie, a couple from an indigenous tribe who are entrusted with the care of an orphaned baby elephant named Raghu. The couple devotes themselves to Raghu’s survival and well-being, nursing the fragile and injured elephant back to health. As they care for Raghu, a strong bond develops between them and the elephant.
Set against the backdrop of the breathtaking Mudumalai National Park in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, the film not only showcases the natural beauty of the location but also highlights the harmonious relationship between the tribal people and the wildlife. The movie is not just a heartwarming story of the bond between humans and animals but also promotes the rich Indian culture and tradition of environmental conservation.
The storyline of the short film shows a small yet important fragment of the problems faced by wild animals due to constant human intervention in their habitat. Elephants in particular are large, yet gentle animals, which are known to be non-aggressive but have to face the brunt of exploitation of the corridors, that are used by them for the movement of their herd.
The elephant corridors
Elephant corridors are narrow strips of land that connect two or larger areas of elephant habitat, allowing elephants and other wildlife to move between them. These corridors are often used by elephants to access food, water, and mates, and they are crucial for maintaining the genetic diversity of elephant populations.
These corridors are especially important in areas where human development has fragmented the natural habitat of elephants. These corridors are critical for the survival of elephant populations, as they facilitate the movement of elephants between different forest areas and allow for genetic exchange between populations.
Without corridors, elephants may become isolated in small patches of land, which can lead to inbreeding and a loss of genetic diversity. In addition, elephants may be forced to travel through human settlements or agricultural areas, where they can come into conflict with people.
Some important elephant corridors across the world
In South Asia, there are several elephant corridors, including the Khao Yai – Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex in Thailand, the Eastern Forest Complex in Cambodia, and the Kosi-Mechi Corridor in Nepal. These corridors connect protected areas and provide a safe passage for elephants.
Sri Lanka, whose national animal is the Sri Lankan Elephant, has several important elephant corridors, including the Habarana-Kaudulla Elephant Corridor and the Wasgamuwa-Knuckles Elephant Corridor. These corridors connect protected areas and provide critical habitats for elephants in the region.
India has numerous elephant corridors, including the Nilgiri Elephant Corridor, the Kanha-Pench Corridor, and the Dandeli-Anshi Elephant Corridor. These corridors are critical for the movement of elephants between fragmented habitats in the country.
Other countries with important elephant corridors include Kenya’s Amboseli National Park – Kilimanjaro Forest Reserve Elephant Corridor, Tanzania’s Selous-Niassa Wildlife Corridor, and Myanmar’s Hukaung Valley Wildlife Sanctuary.
Impact of human activities on elephants
Human activities have a significant impact on elephant populations around the world:
Loss of habitat
As human populations grow and expand into natural areas, elephant habitats are destroyed or fragmented. This loss of habitat can result in the displacement of elephants, forcing them to move into areas where there is less food and water, or into areas where they come into conflict with humans.
Elephants are poached for their ivory tusks, which are highly valued on the black market. Poaching has had a devastating impact on elephant populations, as it has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of elephants each year.
As human populations grow, conflicts between humans and elephants increase. Elephants may damage crops, raid villages, or cause other types of property damage, leading to retaliation by humans. This can result in the killing or injuring of elephants.
Impact of climate change
Climate change is caused primarily because of human activities and it can have a significant impact on elephant populations by altering their habitats and food sources. Changes in rainfall patterns, temperatures, and vegetation can all affect the availability of food and water for elephants, making it harder for them to survive.
Uncontrolled infrastructure development activities
Large-scale infrastructure development projects such as roads, dams, and mines can disrupt elephant habitats, fragment populations and make it harder for elephants to move between different areas.
Overall, human activities significantly impact elephant populations, and despite constant efforts by various conservationists and governments to protect and maintain elephant corridors, the situation has turned worse over the years. Movies like The Elephant Whisperers are thus very important as they raise such issues, in a creative and intriguing way, for the larger audience to be aware.