Friday, April 16, 2021

The Big Raid

 Hollywood has us all believe that when a large animal is around you, you first realise its presence through the vibrations it causes. Think ripples in the glass of water on your table a few seconds before the beast shows up. After last night, I can debunk that trope with confidence. We were woken up by an elephant last midnight right next to our bedroom window. The CCTV footage confirmed that it had come in to the property a few minutes ago and had treaded around the house noiselessly. What eventually gave its presence away was not the vibrations in the ground but a really poor eating etiquette. The tusker was trying to pick the juiciest mangoes from the top of the tree, and it employed a brute force technique of breaking the branches, sampling the fruits, and then discarding most of them away noisily. 

I watched this individual snack around the house for nearly 4 hours, and while it hurt that our trees were getting destroyed, I consoled myself that we had to share the bounties of this land with its original inhabitants. At some point, though, it got close to a bamboo brush that I feel particularly attached to, and apparently that's where I drew my line for the spirit of coexistence. I had to shoo the beast away from there and the only way I could think of in the fuzziness of that night was to flash my torch at the animal in order to alarm it. That tactic seemed to work and the tusker chose the nearest point in the fence to get out of our property. Having deftly dealt with the crisis I slept a satisfied man. So I thought! Only in the morning, when I surveyed the far end of the farm did I realise the full extent of the drama of the previous night. At least six elephants had come in to our farm, and in an unfairly lopsided ratio, they had left behind nine breaches in the fence. The damage to our trees and saplings is too long to mention here. They even managed to mangle one of my tarpaulin ponds, presumably because they tried to all take a bath in it. 

In the morning, I went looking for my camera trap that I had placed in that area, and found it half buried in a ditch. Luckily it had survived the onslaught to bear witness to how these giants had tried to snuff the evidence out.  



We'll spend the next few days repairing the damage the herd made, and unlike the farmers in my neighbourhood here, I'm probably among the privileged ones who can shake off the financial damage. I'll soon even forget the hassle of fixing the fences and repairing the pond. Watching the elephants make light work of the large tree from 4 (elephant) body lengths away, however, will remain one of the most surreal wildlife encounters I've ever had. 

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