Elephant on fire flees from Hell
A SHOCKING picture showing an adult elephant and its calf desperately fleeing from a mob after being set on fire has won a major photographic prize.
The photo, shot in West Bengal state in India, starkly illustrates the troubling conflict between humans and elephants in the populous country.
Titled "Hell is Here" the graphic image, taken by local photographer Biplab Hazra, shows the two animals running for their lives from a crowd that had tossed flaming tar balls and crackers at them in a bid to scare them away from human settlements.
The shocking image, shot on the State Highway in Jhargram district, won the 2017 Sanctuary's Wildlife Photographer of the Year award.
Mr Hazra, a professional brick kiln owner, who counts wildlife photography as his passion, said the elephant calf and adult somehow survived the attack.
"For these smart, gentle, social animals who have roamed the subcontinent for centuries, hell is now and here," he said.
It was common practice in the area to throw crackers and use fire to ward off elephants, Hazra told New Indian Express, but that it often further enraged the animals and led to further destruction.
"The calf may not have been intentionally set on fire by the villagers living in the vicinity of the elephant corridor that stretches from southwestern West Bengal up to Saranda forest in Jharkhand, but bursting crackers and throwing fireballs on elephant herds has been a common practice in this part of West Bengal," he said.
The award was founded by the Sanctuary Nature Foundation, a Mumbai based non-governmental organisation that works towards biodiversity conservation and community engagement.
"In the Bankura district of West Bengal, this sort of humiliation of pachyderms is routine, as it is in the other elephant-range states of Assam, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu and more," the foundation said in a release.
Mainaz Mazumdar from Baroja village, close to the scene of the attack wrote on Sanctuary's Facebook page: "Our village is frequently invaded by such wild and unruly animals that come all the way from dalma range of forests. The fault, of course, lies with us.
"Because of heavy habitat destructions (in this case the forest) the elephants are coming down onto the settlements. This has been a great problem over the years."
"When the horde of elephants comes near to a village the respective forest office hires people to drive them back to the Jungle. These people are locally known as Hulia Party. They use strong and loud firecrackers, big and bright lights, harpoons, tin drums to make noises to scare them off, torches and bow and arrow.
"There is no controversy that these poor creatures suffered greatly at our hands.
"But it is also true that they wrecked havoc on these poor peasants that are entirely dependent on agriculture. They wasted paddy fields, potato fields, fields of wheat and so on.
"Many farmers committed suicide because of these damages. But worse still, they killed innocent people too."
India is home to more than 70 per cent of the world's Asian elephants, around 30,000 animals, with 800 calling West Bengal home, according to a 2014 World Wildlife Fund count.