Spotlight India: guardians of the wild make a safe home for elephants

Rehabilitated and tracked: young elephants Tinku and Rupa were sighted in the wild, and displayed wild behaviours!This post was written by, Anjan Sangma, biologist, and sent to us by Shrestha, Sheren, communications coordinator, both members of the International Fund for Animal Welfare - Wildlife Trust of India partnership.

A routine job can sometimes give ‘un-routine’ results. April 17th this year was one such day.

We were walking in the Doimari area in Manas National Park, tracking as we do every day, for signs of elephant calves that our team has hand-raised and released here.

The team included forest guards, members of the community-based organisations–Manas Maozigendri Ecotourism Society and Agrang Ecotourism Society -- and IFAW-WTI animal keepers.

At about 9:15 am, as we walked, our animal keeper Gobinda Garh stopped us in our tracks...and whispered that there were two elephants grazing in the river bed in front of us.

We saw the elephants, and it crossed my mind that these were the calves released by our team.

We headed a little closer to get a better glimpse and recognised that one of them was Tinku (a worn-out radio collar gave away his identity).

A little closer and Gobinda and Debojit Saikia, another animal keeper, confirmed that the other was Rupa!

Missing the tip of her trunk, Rupa was among the first elephant calves released in Manas in 2007 along with five other calves.

The last confirmed sightings were in February 2010, when her collar was removed, and again one a month later.

Debojit and Gobinda tried to approach the calves to attempt to remove Tinku’s collar.

The calves moved away and disappeared into the forest before we could reach them.

It was unfortunate that we could not retrieve the collar. However, this was a good sign – that they were safe in the forest and also that they were avoiding people...yet more evidence they had become wild!

My thoughts went to all the forest guards and the community-based organisations, without whom this would not have been possible–a safe home for these calves in Manas.

Every day throughout the year, they work to keep Manas and its elephants safe from harm -- patrolling in the park, fighting poachers and encroachers, sometimes facing the wrath of locals, helping prevent human-elephant conflicts or managing them, and much more.

Under our Greater Manas Conservation Project, IFAW-WTI has been providing trainings to these guardians of the wild, to carry out their duties more effectively. We also equip them with basic field kits to help them in their daily duties.

It is not difficult to appreciate the significance of this--not just to enhance their skills, but also to boost their morale and motivation.

Most of the time, their hard work goes unnoticed by the outside world. The only time they are generally talked about is when something goes wrong.

Well, here’s a little information from an insider: When things go wrong, nobody is more pained than these frontline staff.

Yet it is these little success stories like sighting Rupa and Tinku that keep them going about their responsibilities.

And it is to these guardians of the wild, that we owe these successes to.

--SS

For more information about our work to protect elephants, go to our campaign page.

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Experts

Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
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IFAW Elephant Expert
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
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James Isiche, Regional Director, East Africa
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Jason Bell, Program Director, Elephants Regional Director, South Africa
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Peter Pueschel, Director, International Environmental Agreements
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Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Regional Director, South Asia