While we all are busy celebrating the success of the Oscar win of the documentary Elephant Whisperers, in a corner of Maharashtra, a young man from Thane is known as ‘The Elephant Whisperer’, since he founded the organisation – Trunk Call: The Wildlife Foundation about eight years ago.
Anand Shinde started his career as a photojournalist. It was during a story shoot that he discovered that elephants can be man’s best friends. “Till about eight years ago, I didn’t know anything about elephants, except the spelling and that they are huge animals with long tusks,” says Anand. “I discovered their nuances during the photo feature that I did on elephants in a forest near Kochi. I observed their body language and figured out that they are extremely expressive.”
Anand found that baby elephants have different sounds for everything. “That’s the way they communicate. I started copying their sounds to communicate with them. Soon they warmed up to me and I was their buddy.” That was just the beginning for Anand. He soon started to go deeper and began his research on elephants. He went on to observe the photos clicked and read all material available on elephants by researchers worldwide.
When photos of dead elephants went viral in 2012, Anand was crestfallen. He took it up as his contribution to Nature that he will do whatever he can to protect the elephants. He realised that elephants were being killed because, according to the farmers, they were trespassing the farmlands and destroying the crops.
“The reality, however, is that we have trespassed on their land,” reveals Anand. “Cutting down forests for agriculture has reduced the land that the elephants can survive in. It is important to conserve forests and water holes to ensure that the elephants have enough to eat and drink and feel protected.”
Not just this, but Anand believes that it is possible to control elephants without the use of sticks or other weapons. “Elephants are extremely expressive. One has to keenly study their body language to comprehend what they are trying to communicate. Once you learn to understand their language, you can understand their moods. One can then connect to the elephants and make them follow your instructions easily. You don’t need sticks to scare them into doing what you want them to do. They will just obey you out of love for you,” he explains.
Anand believes that elephants are innocent and trust easily. “That’s the reason that the pregnant elephant ended up eating a pineapple stuffed with firecrackers in 2020,” he says with moist eyes reflecting his misery. “That was cruel! Why are we killing elephants? Who gave us the right?”
Latest surveys suggest that by 2025, there might not be a single elephant on Earth. The same survey also mentions that every 15 minutes, an elephant dies somewhere on our planet. “If this happens, we are headed towards doom. Because elephants form an integral part of Earth’s life cycle. If they disappear, the entire cycle will be affected,” Anand points out.
He goes on to say that while Karnataka and Kerala are doing their bit by planting more elephant-friendly trees like bamboo in their jungles, the rest of India, including Maharashtra, needs to do their bit as well.
“Elephants have a huge brain, and a bigger heart,” says Anand. “The heart is full of love and the brain remembers the smallest thing till the time the elephant is alive. It is important that we give them kind memories that fill their brains with love for human beings.”
We live in a world where communication between two human beings is taking a backseat thanks to the virtual world taking over. But Anand Shinde is making efforts to keep communication between elephants and human beings alive. Anand believes that your whispers in the elephant’s ears reach God because elephants are God’s gift to mankind.