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


Sanjeeta Sharma Pokharel (SSP)

Featured post

Bhunte and Lantana

Bhunte loves his home. There are many trees and many of his friends around. But, there is also a plant- Lantana. It has pretty flowers and attracts many birds. The birds feed on berries and fly away. Within a decade or more, the Lantana has spread all over the forests. The dark side behind these pretty plants is that it had covered the entire forests and restricted the growth of many kinds of grass and other plants. It is not only Bhunte and his herd who are now forced to travel outside the forests for feeding, but also many animals feeding on grasses and other varieties of plants. As the Lantana has devastated their home and food. When they come out, they become victims of poaching and conflicts. Lantana was brought as the ornamental plant and now it has spread all across. Bhunte observes two birds feeding on the Lantana’s berries. When Bhunte went near, they flew away. One of them defecated on Bhunte’s body. Bhunte knows that these birds will carry the seeds further. Bhunte urges humans to plant a plant whose biology they know, the aesthetic looks of the plants should not one day invade all the forests and displacing many small native herbs and shrubs. These plants outcompete the native flora and finally, the forests will be gone…

WhatsApp Image 2019-09-16 at 11.01.05 AM

Bhunte and Tikiri

When Bhunte heard about an old female, as old as his grandmother, in the southern island called Sri Lanka. He felt bad. Bhunte and other elephants should live in a group and a family. It’s very hard for elephants, especially a female, to live all by herself. They are a highly social being. And also, Tikiri is all by herself among the humans. How unfortunate. How unfortunate, it must be for an elephant to be captive and die captive with the condition- worst like Tikiri’s. Bhunte felt sad. Tikiri is a very old female and her body condition says she is under higher stress* Bhunte wished he could be with her. He wished his entire herd could be with her, he would love her. Alas, he loses hope! Many such elephants die a painful death in captivity, used for festivals, recreation, beggings, circuses, safaris, and so on; all for the pleasure and comfort of humans. Humans did not own the authority to reign over animals who were born free! Neither humans have the right to decide the death and fate of these animals…Many thoughts came to Bhunte. Bhunte is scared of his future…



(Stress and body condition is related in Asian elephants, findings by SSP)

‘They killed Pukule (the tiger cub)’s mom’

It has barely been a month when Bhunte witnessed the death of Chantu due to choking. To add to his grievance, he heard from his herd members that Pukule, the tiger cub whom he met long ago in the playground, lost his mother when the villagers smashed her with sharp and blunt objects, till she died of shock and haemorrhage. It was just a day ago that he was happy to hear that Pukule’s family members are rising in his forests. Bhunte is scared. He trembled, clumsily fell down and went next to his mom’s forelegs and trumpeted loud…


“Tigers’ numbers will rise, so will our cruelty…”


News source:

Plastic killed Chantu (the river dolphin)

Bhunte has no happy story to share; as while swimming through the river in his home, Bhunte met Chantu (the river dolphin) again. This time, Chantu was not happy and jubilant when he saw Bhunte, rather he was trying to breathe. Bhunte immediately tried helping Chantu, he found that there was a plastic bag entangled on his neck. The bag was too tight and Bhunte could not remove it with his trunk. He struggled but failed. Bhunte saw Chantu losing his breath, slowly Chantu lost his consciousness and was immobile. His body started floating over the river. Bhunte trumpeted several times, and his herd came near the river bank. Bhunte’s mother saw Chantu’s body floating over the river with a tight plastic bag on his neck. She was very disappointed; so were her sisters and daughters, they pulled Bhunte closer to them and mourned. Bhunte could not get over it, and kept on running towards the floating body…he was sad…he trumpeted…


How to sight Bhunte?

When you are in the deep dense forests and you want to see Bhunte and his relatives, you need to pay attention to some of the evidence. If in a distant forest, you hear abreaking of branches‘- you got to be alert- he must be around. If on the ground you stand, you see the tiny circular impressions (footprints) along with the big ones– you should follow them–well, be safe. Well, if you see the round balls of steaming dung piles (of green, brown and grey colours), Bhunte must have defecated a few minutes or hours back…And of course, if you hear his trumpet or vibrating rumbles or shouts- he is around, and so will be his families. And if the grasses are crushed and the branches on the trails, Bhunte will be around. And if you sight him and his family, respect their space and temperament. Do not shout or hurl things at them. Do not litter their homes with plastics. Avoid using the flashes of your camera- it disturbs them. Just respect them and observe their serene bond…4-001

*This story and art got featured in the Kids Jumbori Japan, Tokyo, 2018.


を 見

「バキバキッ」 木

の 枝
が 折

、 折


の 枝
、 地面
の 足跡


、 鳴き声


く に
いるぞ!」 ということが分かるんだ。


(Kids Jumbori Japan Team: Moe Yanagi and Nachiketha SR, Wildlife Research Center, Kyoto University)

Bhunte and Botswana

On this day, Bhunte request Botswana for not to cull his relatives. Growing populations of elephants and increased conflicts are not just due to elephants! Culling would result in many adverse consequences. Disrupting their natural social bond, random capturing, increasing psychological and physiological stress, and on the top, killing someone to reduce conflicts- sounds oxymoronic! Unethical…Bhunte sighs… “Dear Botswana and other countries, please avoid such harsh decision!”


Vinayaki, the elephant goddess, and Bhunte

Bhunte, while silently crossing a village- along with his herd, came across a temple. He stopped and was astonished to behold a female Ganesha. The statue reminded him of his mother. She looked quite similar- he thought. He ran towards her and trumpeted “Mom, I saw a statue of a female elephant. She resembles you”. His mother laughed and patted him on his head with her trunk and said “She is Vinayaki, an elephant-headed goddess, the Hindu people also call her Stri Ganesha, Gajanana, Vigneshvari and Ganeshani. While moving through villages, I have seen only a few people worship her. She is also known as the Goddess of well-being”. She started walking briskly as she heard some of the villagers coughing and talking. Bhunte too paced up. He turned back to see the statue. He was astonished and happy. “Vinayaki- I will always remember, she looks like my mom and my mom is no less than a Goddess” he thought and was glad to see a female elephant goddess. “Bhunte, this way…” His mother pushed him gently from behind as they entered the forest…IMG_20190428_161847973

Bhunte’s mom is pregnant

Bhunte is very happy as he came to know that his mom is pregnant and he is going to be a brother. An elder brother! Bhunte thought ” I want a sister, my mom said she will come after 21-23 months and will weigh around 100 kg, I am very excited to be a brother. I have decided, I will not trouble my mom during this period as she needs proper food, rest and nutrition. Aha, I will act as a responsible son!” He trumpeted loud as he walked behind his mother. “Bhunte, are you okay, why you smiling on your own” his mother trumpeted back. “Nothing mom, just preparing to be a responsible brother” he trumpeted loud. As he was walking, smiling and closing his eyes, he slipped down on the jungle-track as he missed noticing a puddle. His mother trumpeted, “Well, I just saw how responsibly you are walking, certainly you will be a good brother” and she smiled, while Bhunte rubbed his trunk against his legs…


Bhunte and iron spikes!

Dear ‘concerned’ authorities,

Assam, India.

I seldom want to share sad stories. But unfortunately, I have been experiencing some of the most painful moments in the wild. Life for me and my relatives is slowly deteriorating as ‘humans’ come up with adverse solutions to keep many of us away. Recently, on my way up in the foothills- I came across with sharp metals projecting up throughout our trail. One of my aunts got severely injured when we were crossing these deadly spikes during night hours. I heard that she is no more alive! She suffered severe infections and collapsed on her way! 

I want to convey to ‘humans’ that elephants’ footpads are very important- not just for travelling around but also for communicating with each other! Can ‘humans’ be less cruel and stop hurting us further? I had a terrible day- for I know that ‘humans’ are going to rule over our abodes!

Unfortunate and always troubled,


The baby elephant

PS: Kindly find the picture attached herewith to know your extent of being cruel!


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