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Bhunte: The baby elephant

An illustrated story of a calf

Bhunte: The baby elephant

A note from Bhunte’s creator:

When Science reaches to the common audiences in the form of art- worth understanding- it can do wonders!

Being a researcher working to understand the physiological manifestation, the stress response, in wild Asian elephants, I got a chance to closely observe these magnificent creatures in their abodes.  It was one such wonderful field day in the pristine core of Bandipur National Park, Karnataka, India; when I saw a few months old baby calf playing with dry dung, trying to touch his ears with his tiny trunk and pulling the trunks of his elders in his herd. I was captivated by the innocence and cuteness, he had. I named him- Bhunte.  The images of Bhunte got so imprinted in my mind, that when I reached my field base-camp in Bandipur, I made a cartoon of him. That was where-and-when Bhunte came into the existence; in the form of art.  I am sharing some of my cartoons- clubbed with stories and facts.

So, here we go with some of my fantasies and Bhunte’s world of exploring wild and science…

Bhunte with his brother and mother

dsc_0405-001

Sanjeeta Sharma Pokharel (SSP)

Featured post

Bhunte and Wang Shu’s sleeping herd

Wang Shu and his herd members are travelling through the cities from their home for a few months. Every human, wondering why Wang Shu’s herd is making such a long tour in their habitations, barely know that Wang Shu wanted to be in a new home and also meet his friend, Bhunte. It was Wang Shu’s grandmother who knew the route, which she remembered from her journey with her grand-mom 40 to 50 years back when she was of Wang Shu’s age. She started the journey, therefore. To her dismay, she found that there were no streams to cross and splash water, which she remembers playing with her tiny trunk when her grand-mom dragged her out of the water. No trees to tear up the branches to swat away the flies. She was completely perplexed when she found that there were concrete floors, lights, vehicles, houses, crowds, more concretes! She tried to search more. She guided her herd through these houses and cities, yet did not reach the forest. Wang Shu was tired and so were his cousins. Wang Shu’s grand-mom had no choice but to be back. On their way back to their old home, they rested. Wang Shu and his aunts fell asleep as they travelled almost 500 km. In his dream, Wang Shu saw Bhunte approaching him with his ears raised high and trumpeting towards him. He was excited. He woke up and climbed over his mother to get more sleep. Once Wang Shu will grow into an old Tusker, he will certainly start this journey again to meet his friend…

Why Chellakutty, the elephant, did not destroy the bird nest?

Chellakutty is now the hero amongst all the elephants in Tamil Nadu. He met Bhunte too and you should see, the sparks Bhunte had in his eyes when he saw Chellakutty. Bhunte happily trumpeted and asked Chellakutty to share the illustrious story! Chellakutty dusted off his body and rubbed his skin against the bark of Tectona and ignored Bhunte’s request! That made Bhunte go impatient! Bhunte started walking behind Chellakutty and kept on nagging him by pulling his tail. So finally, Chellakutty rested against a huge Ficus tree and started. “Well, my boy, Banana attracts me. I can’t resist the smell of Banana. Yum, they are!” Chellakutty kept his trunk in his mouth. Bhunte never tasted Banana as it is not his usual food, so could not relate to what Chellakutty must have had in his mind. Chellakutty is among some of the males who secretly venture into human-land during nights. “That night I accompanied some of my friends. Five of us. We went to the nearby Banana farm. We started munching on almost 300 of the plants. Then I heard some chirps. It was from the Banana plant I was about to crush with my head.” Bhunte could see fear in the eyes of Chellakutty. “Those were newly hatched babies. ‘Hey folks, I am sorry, I disturbed you, please kindly rest.’ that is what I said to those sparrow’s nestlings. A mother sparrow was a little grumpy and she kept on staring at me and chirped louder. So I gently retreated and left”. I also took Thambi and other guys away from that plant, even though there was a bunch of yummy bananas hanging!” Bhunte was so mesmerized by the kindness Chellakutty had shown. Bhunte thought once he will grow old like Chellakutty, he too will save many of his tiny friends. While Bhunte was pondering, a tiny bee passed by Bhunte. “Buzzzzzzz, watch out your way my ele brother!” That bee buzzed and left. Bhunte was in his own world, least he cared…

(Based on a true story: https://indianexpress.com/article/trending/viral-videos-trending/elephants-destroy-over-300-banana-tress-leave-one-with-a-birds-nest-untouched-watch-viral-video-7305788/)

Goplu, Bhunte’s friend, thanks Jharkhand

It was night when Goplu was quickly following his herd through the village named Nimatand, Jharkhand. One of the villagers noticed his herd and started shouting. Most of the villagers then came out of their hamlets and started chasing his herd. Goplu’s mother quickly pulled Goplu towards her and rumbled secretly ‘Run Goplu, we have to enter the forest as soon as possible’. Goplu nodded his head and started running behind his mother with all his energy. But then he stumbled over a stone and slipped into the dark tunnel full of water. He got anxious and started looking up, where Gaplu’s mother helplessly stared at him, running left and right to rescue him. Goplu too tried his best to climb up. He could not. It was a 9 meter deep well! Whole night, he struggled. Meanwhile, the villagers chased his mother and his aunts away. He was alone and frightened. He wanted to be with his mom. But he could still hear villagers in the distant. Goplu’s mother too was worried! But, she could not come back to help him! Goplu kept on splashing water with his trunk and paddling his legs to try his best to come out of this dungeon! He tried the whole night! He was tired but he did not give up. In the morning, one of the villagers spotted Goplu. He immediately informed the forest department. Those people came and started digging up the well to break it off. Goplu was scared. He did not know what is happening and why they are digging up. He could hear sounds of engine! The closer they came, more fear bursted in his head. After almost 8 hours, he realized that they were making a way out for him. They broke the dungeon! He tried to climb the open end. He slipped again. But again he climbed. He was full of mud and dust. He was out of the well. He was too weak to walk. With his tired eyes, he gazed at the people who helped him to pull him out. He thanked them from within. All he had in his mind was his mom. He wanted to be with her as early as possible. Meanwhile in the forest away from Jharkhand, Bhunte came to know about this rescue and could not stop but thanking forest staffs of Jharkhand, India. He hoped that Goplu must have met his mother…

Bhunte, Golu and Kale and their bridge!

“Hey, no way! Two of them! That’s painful!” Bhunte trumpeted out of shock while talking to Kale. Kale told Bhunte that Radhakalli and her daughter, one year old calf, were hit by the speeding truck and they died on the road. It was two years ago. Kale raised his trunk and said “these humans should build the bridge high up there, near to the sky, so that we can roam freely on the ground! Without a fear of being hit by those cruel fast-running machines!” Golu nodded his head and raised his trunk too. Bhunte, Golu and Kale dreamt of having a safe haven for them. Unaware of such initiatives called corridors and bridges built to save millions of migrating animals out there in the globe, they fantasized how the bridge should look like. Next to them was their uncle, Gajendra, happily devouring branches and enjoying his musth…

‘Sssh! Do you know elephants go quiet, still they talk when disturbed?’ Bhunte

Bhunte and Thiklu went for a walk around the forest. At the edge, they saw a bunch of people carrying some flashing devices. They noticed Bhunte and Thiklu. Thiklu got scared and was about to trumpet long. Bhunte immediately stopped him to trumpet by pressing his trunk. Then, both of them gently ‘rumbled’ in a very low frequency and increased the timing of rumbles to communicate with their families. Instantly their mothers arrived rushing through the bushes and took them away safely. “You know, Thiklu, the scientists who are studying how we communicate discovered our secrets. When we are disturbed by those humans or any other animals, we don’t trumpet long, but we use rumbles or a low frequency call, which cannot be easily detected by these humans but our parents would know. Humans or disturbers would think we are quiet, but we are not! We increase the duration of rumbles. Always remember this whenever you feel threatened. Always use less trumpets.” Thiklu nodded his head in agreement. After all, Thiklu is younger than Bhunte. He has to obey. Bhunte kept his trunk on Thiklu’s head and walked stumbling.

This research was conducted by Dr. Nachiketha Sharma and the team (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0003347219303938)

Bhunte met the cutest Pygmy elephant, Mayang

Bhunte met Mayang. She is shorter than Bhunte. Her ears are little larger than his. There are very few of Mayang’s family left in the islands of Borneo, Indonesia and Malaysia. Mayang is also called a pygmy elephant. Because of their little peculiar body size, they are considered to be different subspecies of Asian elephants. Though a few scientists are still digging deep into knowing whether Mayang and her families are indeed different, Bhunte knows it well! He knows, for sure, that there are three known different Asian elephants. He also knows that some humans prefer calling Bhunte and his relatives as “Elephas maximus“. These three different elephants are found in Indian subcontinent (E. m. indicus), Sri Lanka(E. m. maximus) and Sumatra (E. m. sumatranus). Besides these, based on arts/ statues/ monuments, some taxonomists proposed Syrian, Chinese and Javan elephants. These are considered to be extinct! Among all these pieces of information, Bhunte and Mayang sniffed each other and shared their joys of being different, yet same! Bhunte stretched his trunk to measure Mayang’s height! Sadly, they are unaware of the fact that rapidly expanding palm cultivation and habitat destruction gradually threatens the existence of Mayang and her isolated populations of Pygmy elephants. What we can do to save these Borneo elephants! Can we? Well, one tiny step is to avoid using products having palm oil! This may sound weird, but the avoidance of such products may bring down the production and also reduces the cultivation pressure! Saving the tiny habitats of Pygmy elephants and other animals. While Bhunte is busy playing with Mayang, let’s create a beautiful abode for these two and many…

‘You do not deserve us’ cried Bhunte

“…painful death of an elephant, in India, who suffered severe burns and agony when he was attacked by the villagers with a burning tyre, the pain he must have gone through, I pray that no humans should feel that pain! It’s not been a week after a harrowing death of an elephant dragged down on the road with all his guts spread on the road and he was still breathing, you certainly do not deserve elephants. Humans have gone beyond their limits to express their supremacy, that they have lost the sense of being human. You do not deserve us. Not even a single of us.”

~Bhunte

The baby elephant

Painful 😢

Warning: This is the link to the horrifying news.

Charuka’s herd from Sri Lanka and Bhunte

Bhunte as always started throwing tantrums to his mom. He nagged about not liking those grasses. He said these do not taste delicious. His mom thumped her trunk and said ‘Do you know Charuka aunty?’. ‘No!’ ‘Well, she lives in Sri Lanka and gave birth to Budhika, recently! She is lactating and you know, Charuka with her sisters and Budhika were seen eating human garbage and plastic! You must feel proud that you are eating the grasses and that your home is not disturbed by humans! So stop throwing tantrums, pull those grasses and eat them all!’ Bhunte was shocked to hear about Budhika and others. Without complaining a bit, he ate the grasses! Not all elephants are lucky! A few fail and a few learn to survive! Bhunte still could not believe that his relatives are munching on garbage!

Bhunte and Tashi, the Pallas’s cat

Bhunte was extremely tired after a day-long walk with mom and play with others in his herd. Tired Bhunte went next to his mom and sat down next to her hind legs and fell asleep. In the dream, he saw climbing the hills, rocks, and meadows. His tiny trunk kept obstructing him in his venture. He tried to pull it up. While doing so, he stumbled over and dashed the rock. His trunk touched something very soft and furry. ‘Ouch! I was ambushing to attack that pika!’ yelped a small-cat like creature with a very prominent set of aggressive eyes with a round black pupil. Bhunte saw a tiny pika jumping and running away from the site. ‘I am sorry, I was trying to adjust my trunk. Who are you?’ The lone furry friend was almost unnoticeable amidst the rocks, only his yellow eyes sparkled. Cleaning his fur, he said ‘I am Tashi. People call me Pallas’s cat. I love rocks and crevices. This provides me the best place to hide, rest, and attack my food. My furry jacket is thick and it gives others the illusion that I am big. It also changes its color with changing seasons, isn’t it cool?’ Tashi smirked. ‘I and my colleagues (as I prefer staying alone and maintain distance by marking my area) are fond of rocks and grassland. We love being here. Bhunte, by the way, I am not a good runner. But trust me, I can produce different kinds of calls and ambush my prey on their way’ Tashi was a cool cat, Bhunte thought. His eyes were wide and bright. ‘But very few people know about us. Our favorite sites are destroyed by humans and some of us are even killed for our fur.’ Tashi appeared sad. He silently went inside the crevice, without saying a ‘bye’. Bhunte felt sad too. But, for some reason, his trunk was hurting and he tried to adjust it again. When he pulled it harder, ‘Sorry Bhunte, my leg stepped your trunk, I was watching you and I dozed off.’ Bhunte’s mom gently trumpeted. Bhunte was surprised. It was a dream? He saw Tashi in a dream? Bhunte could not understand, but he wished to go to those steep rocky mountains to meet Tashi and to play with him…

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