Empathising with another person in their misery may be a tad difficult for us, but it is not so for elephants. It may come as a surprise to many that elephants have funeral rituals and keep vigil for their dead. Many such interesting characteristics held the attention of all those, who attended the lecture on ‘Elephants Biology, Culture and Management’ by Dr R Sukumar, a Professor at the Indian Institute of Science, at the Centre for Ecological Sciences recently.
Sukumar began by presenting the genesis of elephants right from the Jurassic era through to the presence of the gentle giant in today’s world.
The lecture also highlighted the fact that India boasts of about 27,000 elephants at present, while China has seen a drastic decrease in the numbers.
“The elephant numbers have fortunately held its ground in India, as opposed to most other Asian countries, where the numbers have declined to a great extent. But the truth remains that the elephant’s habitat continues to be under threat in many parts, and the male - female ratio is skewed considerably. The early mammoths that were 12 ft in height have evolved to 6 ft now. This being the case over 11,000 years, it won’t be surprising if elephants dwarf more over the next 10,000 years,” said Sukumar.
Sukumar went on to elaborate on the different types of elephants — one characteristic being the musth — a periodic condition in bull (male) elephants, characterised by highly aggressive behaviour and accompanied by a large rise in reproductive hormones. The social life and culture of these pachyderms also captured the audience’s attention.
The conflicts faced by the animals and the laws that exist for their government were also discussed. The session, organised by the CP Ramaswamy Environment Education Centre, was an informative and interesting seminar that gave a peek into the elephants’ way of life and the audience comprised research scholars to academicians and students.
Nanditha Krishna, honorary secretary of CPREEC, who was present during the talk, shared the story of the late Lawrence Anthony, an elephant conservationist, who rehabilitated rogue elephant herds and of how these rehabilitated elephants came back to his rural house in South Africa to mourn his death. Only chimpanzees and magpies are known to exhibit such behaviour in the animal kingdom.
Sukumar and CPREEC had been actively working on raising awareness on treating elephants in the best way possible and the session was a very educative one to all those who attended it.