While scouting the land today I found elephant boluses (dung) scattered along a granite hilltop on the care center property. The granite is spectacular, with sheered layers and huge natural depressions. During monsoon season rainwater fills the many depressions, creating a series of watering holes, some deep enough for an elephant to wallow in. Judging from the age of the dung, monsoon season is probably when the elephant was here.
While exploring another area of the elephant-lake shoreline I found footprints from a single elephant… Where he exited the water is quite muddy so his footprints were well preserved. They weren’t recent but they were BIG.
I have been thinking a lot about the wild elephants that use this land. Their corridors must be reestablished and protected or wild elephants will not survive. I would trash my plans for a captive elephant care center if giving this land to the wild elephants would make a difference, but the reality is that 200 acres will not fix the problem.
Guarding the national forest from further human invasion is an important step toward fixing the problem. One of the reasons Vishnu bought this land was to act as a steward for wild elephant land . He wanted to stop human encroachment, at least in this area. If more landowners took this perspective, things could turn around for elephants. They need land, connecting corridors and stewards willing to protect the land.
The care center borders the national forest. Years back, in an effort to keep wild elephants from leaving the forest to raid crops, the Forest Department erected miles of stone walls. Unfortunately, with villagers growing crops just feet from the walls, the temptation is too great. Elephants—usually a lone bull— pushes over a section of the wall. It is an easy task for a full-grown male, who lowers his massive head and pushes until a section of the wall topples, creating an opening. After seeing a couple of these breaches in the walls, I am growing ever more thankful for my Indian collaborators.
Vishnu has lived on this land for years, accumulating quite a bit of knowledge about wild elephants. He is required to know the species because his company is one that installs electric fences designed to keep wild elephants and villagers separate. I recently learned that he installed the fencing at Corbett National Park. Last year, while visiting with Christy Williams, I had the opportunity to observe the effectiveness of Vishnu’s fencing enclosing the compound where I was staying, smack in the middle of the forest. Late one night I noticed a juvenile bull standing close to the fence. He stood there for quite some time, several minutes for sure. He appeared to be contemplating something, perhaps the likelihood of being able to get through the fence. Or maybe he was just as curious about us as we were of him. Either way, the fence held him out.
After a few more days of scouting, I believe we’ll be able to decide on the location of the perimeter fencing. This is a very exciting time. I do miss the presence of elephants but I realize they would be a huge distraction. I need to stay focused on the project. The elephants will be here soon enough!