Inside an Elephant Capture (India)


Kalyan Varma, Peepli

Date Published
Please see link for VIDEO

The escalating conflict between man and elephant in Hassan left the authorities with no option but to order the capture.

A dozen or so tame elephants were sent to Hassan to assist in the process, and once they reached the venue, it began. Sharpshooters armed with tranquillisers set out into the forest on foot to track the elephants. At first, they focussed on the males — and when one was found, they brought it down with tranquillisers. 

Forest officials and their helpers roped up the stunned elephant. The tame elephants then assisted, forced, and coaxed the captive to where the flat-bed lorries waited — a long, tedious procedure during which the wild elephant occasionally collapsed from the stress and the effort of resistance and had to be revived. Once at the loading zone, the tame elephants acting in concert with the commands from the mahout head-butted the wild elephant from in front, forcing it backwards into the lorry.

The procedure is traumatic — for the officials, for the tame elephants, for the wild captive and even for the observer. The video below are edited clips from over 20 hours of footage; it is very graphic in its detail — but it is an integral element of this narrative. When we read of man-elephant conflict and of the lives lost and property damaged, we agree that “capture” is the most logical solution. But do we know what capturing a wild elephant actually means, what it looks like, what it feels like?