Elephants are keystones of our ecosystem

Documentary on elephants screened at the Alliance Francaise

Interaction is a ‘way of life’ among many communities, says director of film

CHENNAI: Elephants are mostly viewed as work animals or marauding beasts. They are rarely seen as an integral part of our ecosystem, and the inter-dependence between the beast and a large segment of human population goes unappreciated.

That was the message conveyed through a three-part documentary ‘Elephas Maximus’ — the scientific name for the Asian elephant — screened at the Alliance Francaise here on Monday. The film also threw up some questions about our relationship with the natural world.

Reaching out: Philippe Gautier, film maker, and Prajna Chowta, anthropologist, interacting with schoolchildren at the screening of their film ‘Elephas Maximus’ at the Alliance Francaise on Monday. — Photo: V.Ganesan

Reaching out: Philippe Gautier, film maker, and Prajna Chowta, anthropologist, interacting with schoolchildren at the screening of their film ‘Elephas Maximus’ at the Alliance Francaise on Monday. — Photo: V.Ganesan

The first chapter of the film ‘Of elephants and men’ dealt with the history of capture and the kind of work the elephants were trained for. The second chapter ‘Meetings with remarkable animals’ explored the situation that the species is in currently, the fragmentation of its habitat and the conflict with the human population. ‘Elephants and the people’ captured the unique relationship between people and elephants in Asia.

Speaking about this unique relationship, Philippe Gautier, director of the film, said: “There is a strong cultural aspect to the relationship between many tribes and elephants. No species should be looked at in isolation. Interaction is a ‘way of life’ among many communities.”

“Elephants are like the keystones of our ecological system. If they go, a lot of species which rely on these giant mammals for their survival will disappear too,” he said.

Prajna Chowta, anthropologist and narrator of the film, said that in spite of some of the best environmental laws, lack of implementation and absence of political will were driving elephants towards the brink.

“Elephants destroying standing crop is not the problem. Illegal encroachment into forest land which leads to the situation is the problem.”

In the end, there are one billion Indians and they do not leave much space for the largest mammal on earth, she said. “It must not be forgotten that India has the largest population of elephants and tigers in the world too. That should give us some perspective,” she said.

 From THE HINDU

Advertisements