Attempting to live well with elephants: Human-elephant relations in the western Ghats, India

This week in the CRESIDA seminar series, the speaker is our very own Deepak Bhat Dundi, a PhD student in the Centre. His talk is on human-elephant relations in India. Come and join us on Thursday at 4.15pm in Room G070 at Parkstead House to learn more.

Abstract

People and Asian elephants have lived together in India for thousands of years. Elephants were captured and trained to take part in wars in ancient times. They have been worshipped as gods by Hindu and Buddhist people, and they are an integral part of Hindu and Buddhist mythology and some of the Hindu festivals. However drastic reduction in elephant populations and their habitat during the colonial and postcolonial periods in India due to the killing of elephants for ivory as well as agriculture, commercial forestry and urban expansion, resulted in the launching of Project Elephant to conserve elephants and their habitats by the Government of India in 1992. Today Asian elephants are used as a flagship species for biodiversity conservation in India.

Drawing from four months ethnographic fieldwork in Karnataka, South India and incorporating a multispecies ethnography approach to study the contact zone between humans and elephants, in this presentation, I will discuss the nature of the relationship between wild elephants and local people who lived inside and fringes of Nagarahole Protected area with the elephants.

This presentation focuses on detailed stories told by local people who live in contact with the elephants about why elephants kill people, and why elephants bless people; why they eat some crops but walk right past others; why they eat meat cooked by people; and why they destroy houses.

 

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