Monday, December 23, 2013

Local Heroine in the War Against Bad Animals

We've seen it time and time again on this blog: people are left at the mercy of bad animals by the very agencies and authorities that ought to be in charge of helping them. But to be slightly cheerful for the holiday season, here's a sort of encouraging story of an unconventional success.

In one part of India that's plagued by elephants, state officials proclaimed themselves helpless in the face of a herd that entered the city of Rourkela back in July. They corralled the beasts into a football stadium but then had no idea how to get them back to the forest.

Who did they turn to? A 14-year-old girl, named Nirmala Toppo.

The BBC explains her methods:
Nirmala says she talks to the herd in her local tribal dialect - Mundaari - and persuades the animals to "return to where they belong".
"First I pray and then talk to the herd. They understand what I say. I tell them this is not your home. You should return where you belong," says Nirmala who is a Roman Catholic.
Her mother, she says, was killed by wild elephants and that was when she decided to learn the technique to drive them away.
In her work, she is assisted by her father and a group of boys from her village.
"We surround the herd. Then I go near them and pray and talk to them."
Some city folk are skeptical of her abilities, but locals say that people who live among elephants have to know how to cope with their bad behavior.
Niel Justin Beck, a member of the district council in Jharkhand's Simdega area, where Nirmala comes from, says due to their co-existence with the wild animals, the tribal people know how to deal with them.
"In Jharkhand, we call Nirmala a lady Tarzan. Whenever marauding elephants enter a village or destroys crops, the local forest department officials never turn up.
"It is then that the villagers approach Nirmala for help. And she is able to successfully drive away the herd after talking to them."
This is not an entirely heartwarming tale - after all, this is an animal that's been the cause of 800 human deaths in the state in the past decade, and the goverment has to rely on a child to solve the problem? But at least they knew who to ask - and they paid her, too - so we're going to chalk this one up as a success.

Good advice photographed by Flickr user brett burton.

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