An unwelcomed tusker at 7 pm, in the middle of a jungle, cannot be good news
The International Fund for Animal Welfare is fortunate to have talented staff working all around the world. Some of us are based out of one of 15 country offices but many others work in the field, far away from civilization and close to the animals we serve.
Recently, Loknath, one of our forest guards based in Assam, India shared this terrifying account of an ‘unwelcomed guest’ showing up in his forest camp. - IR
It started out like any other winter day, while we were on a routine patrol with the District Forest Officer (DFO) of Manas, with no animals sighted thanks to the dense winter fog.
A little tired, we arrived at the Doimari camp after five hours, eagerly awaiting the ‘feast’ which had been prepared in honour of our Sa’ab. The afternoon passed uneventfully and the team left the camp in the evening, after the sun set around 4:30 pm, leaving me and Modo in the camp on night duty for a month.
We settled ourselves in the hut, in the middle of the jungle, surrounded by our rifles, bullets and crackers knowing that eventually we might need to use one of them, in the near future, to distract the animals in case they decided to come looking for food at the camp. That evening, as we admired the calm which only nature possesses, we had no inclination of what was about to unfold.
The deep silence was broken by sounds growing closer with every passing second. Frozen, Modo and I gave each other a look that clearly said- an unwelcomed visitor at 7 pm, in the middle of a jungle, cannot be good news.
Suddenly, an elephant trumpeted clearly and menacingly. With hair rising at the back of our necks and goose bumps all over, we jumped off the bed and rushed to the exit to see one of our worst fears come true- a huge adult male tusker enthusiastically raiding the camp.
All thoughts of sleep were history now as adrenaline and fear took over. We were rooted to the spot as we helplessly watched the tusker wreak havoc, breaking all the windows, as the cottage shook with the onslaught. Transfixed we stared at the horrific, yet enthralling and majestic sight.
In the flash of that instant, I remembered the steel plates lying next to my bed. Mustering all the will power I possibly could, I ran back inside, picked them up and rushed back out clanging them loudly.
While part of me hoped that the overwhelming animal would be scared, my efforts were to no avail. The tusker continued on his destructive rampage, targeting the kitchen walls next, presumably attracted by the smell of food.
Modo darted and fetched the fire crackers and we prayed fervently it would work. Unfortunately, the tusker seemed even less inclined to retreat and this time decided to take up his disagreement directly with us.
At the sight of the mass charging towards us, we abandoned camp and ran for our lives, firing three rounds in the air, as a last ditch resort to warn him. We stopped once we were sure we had put in a safe distance between us and the elephant.
The tusker had meanwhile, destroyed everything in sight at the camp in retaliation to the gunshot sounds and continued to stomp the camp to smithereens.
With all rations, belongings, the whole camp itself destroyed to bits, no access to electricity, a perpetual network failure and no way to contact the Beat Office, we had no option but to wait until dawn for help to arrive.
The next 12 hours were painstakingly long, as the tusker silently watched every single move of ours and a feeling of vulnerability washed over us, knowing we were helpless and completely at his mercy, in his jungle.
In retrospect, looking back at the events of that night, knowing how close we came to meeting the creator himself, our resolve for helping wildlife conservation has only strengthened.
While we carry the memories, albeit a little horrific, we cannot deny that we had been awestruck at the time, at the sight of the mammoth creation of nature, at his aggressive best.
In fact we have now been left with a deeper understanding of how natural it was for the tusker to investigate the foreign object obstructing his way. We had set up camp in his jungle and he was simply exploring his own territory in Doimari, which he had every right to.