The focus of the book then shifts to the menace of poaching,
various ways of killing the elephant, male-female ratio and the
nefarious ivory trade. While many people believe that natural
resources can be exploited, it needs to be stressed that
biodiversity and the protection of endangered species is a
elephant is one of the most threatened animals in the world
today. It is also the second largest land animal on earth.
Barely numbering a tenth of its more famous African cousin, the
Asian elephant is threatened by habitat loss, fragmentation,
human-elephant conflict and the ivory trade. While all the rest
are damaging in the long run, none is more urgent and
devastating than poaching for ivory."
To add to the woes
of the Asian elephant, only males of the species sport tusks,
unlike the African elephant. In many Asian countries, as in
India, the elephant is also a tireless worker laying railway
tracks, helping in lumber trade or pulling gigantic loads. In
fact, some of the eastern states of India there is still the
practice of elephants being in government service who even get a
‘pension’ on ‘retirement!’
The threat to the
Asian elephant seems less worrying because many are safe in such
employment or in performing religious duties as temple
elephants, especially in South India.
While Menon is a
relentless crusader for saving the tusker, there is also a flip
side to the cause. In some parts of India, especially Orissa, an
overpopulation of elephants causes them to spill over from
jungles to damage crops, homesteads and kill innocent villagers.
Or at times there is the case of a rouge elephant going on the
rampage — calling for the services of a hunter or a zoo expert
to put it to sleep.
some states in India, simple beliefs and superstitions related
to the elephant-headed God are continuing to help maintain
elephant populations. "The tolerance preached by Hinduism,
coupled with the elevated divine status of the elephant, means
that retaliation even under duress is mostly unthinkable. There
is a superstition in the eastern Indian state of Orissa that
harm inevitably befalls an elephant hunter."
that exists is regarding their population, as there are no
accurate methods of counting their numbers and performing
census. "In more close canopy forests in western and
central Africa, the same problems exist as in Asia and very
often indirect census techniques such as dung counts become the
Alas, this ‘gentle
giant’ which has no natural predator is then threatened by
only one species on earth which, despite smaller physical
proportions, has the cunning and the will to hunt the elephant
down: Homo sapiens.
book, a work of great dedication and a magnificent obsession of
the author, will interest not only expert and conservationists;
but all keen animal lovers. Excellent sketches embellish this
immensely readable book.
May the tusker
triumph over the poacher — at least in the holy land of the