I envy the dogs and cats. They have nothing to fear, no work to do, plenty to eat and so many privileges

I am a baby elephant. I live along with my herd in a forest in India. Sometimes, we devour the crops in the villages on the edge of the forest. Then people attack us in retaliation and usually there are casualties on both sides.

Our natural habitats are diminishing and we are on the verge of starvation. Our waterholes are fast disappearing and often we don't get water to drink, leave alone have a bath! If we emerge from the forest we risk getting killed. They say we are ‘wild' and ‘dangerous'. What nonsense! We don't even eat other animals like some men do.

To make things worse, we have to beware of poachers. Ivory sells at fancy prices, so the big tuskers are often hunted down and killed. My mother says that when I grow up I will have huge tusks. Then I will have to be careful. If I am not killed I may be captured and taken to a circus or zoo. Or, put to work hauling timber or participating in temple ceremonies.

Men say the life span of an elephant can be 60 years in the wild and 80 years in captivity. They claim that half of all elephants die before the age of 15, and only one in five reaches the age of 30. The forest is a dangerous place indeed!

Man no longer lives in his natural habitat. And he's doing well for himself, dominating the planet in fact. So why shouldn't elephants leave the forest and come to live in the city with man? After all, isn't he the best provider on earth? He will surely provide us food, shelter and protection from the dangers of the wild — just as he provides for his dogs, cats, horses, pigs, goats and chickens.

I know he eats some of them, but thankfully, not all! I'm a good labourer, so I'm sure he won't kill me. I can give him my tusks. If he fancies the hair on my tail for making rings, I can give him that too. In any case, my tail is too small to be of any practical use.

India has had captive elephants since 3500 B.C. Our predecessors, the woolly mammoth and the giant mastodon roamed the earth two million years ago. Then they disappeared 13,000 years ago.

Now we too are on the brink of extinction. In 1970, the world had 1.5 million wild elephants. Within two decades this number plummeted to 640,000. India now has hardly 30,000 elephants. A very old bull elephant in our herd told me these things.

In the last 100 years, 65 mammal species became extinct. See what happened to the Asiatic lion. Today, the so-called ‘king' of the jungle is confined to the Gir sanctuary in Gujarat, having disappeared from all other locations. In April 2010, there were an estimated 411 lions in this reserve.

At the dawn of the 20th century, the world had around 100,000 tigers. India alone had 40,000. Today, the world has only 6,020 tigers and India has 1,409. Soon the tiger will be extinct. We elephants are better off, but we feel cornered.

History indicates that all the animals and birds that learned to coexist with man have survived. It certainly makes sense to team up with homo sapiens! I envy the dogs and cats. They have nothing to fear, no work to do, plenty to eat and so many privileges that an elephant can never dream of.

We elephants need large amounts of food. We are strict vegetarians. When the planet already has to feed 6.8 billion humans and a host of other species, what chances are there of our survival? It is time we found a new home. If only humans would take care of us and save us the trouble of foraging for food! I don't mind doing work. What's wrong with elephants doing work? Don't human beings work too?

I would hate to be captured, though. If only the mahouts were more humane, then life with man would be sheer bliss. And then we would never destroy crops or attack people again. I promise…

(The writer email id is: pushpakurup@yahoo.com)

RELATED NEWS

Meghalaya to have another elephant reserve January 20, 2011

More In: Open Page | Opinion