The photograph of two elephants fleeing a mob that set them on fire in eastern India, titled “Hell Is Here,” was taken by Biplab Hazra and was named the winner of the Sanctuary Wildlife Photography Awards 2017.
The harrowing image shows a calf on fire while he and an adult elephant run for their lives all the while a crowd of “jeering” people throws “flaming tar balls” and firecrackers at the pair.
These types of scenes are common in the Bankura district of West Bengal, according to the Sanctuary Asia Foundation.
“The ignorance and bloodlust of mobs that attack herds for fun, is compounded by the plight of those that actually suffer damage to land, life, and property by wandering elephants and the utter indifference of the central and state government to recognize the crisis that is at hand,” the magazine said in a note accompanying the photograph.
Over 70 percent of the global population of Asian elephants is in India, but the region has often been in the news for human deaths caused by encounters with elephants.
Forest officials in West Bengal’s Bankura district started issuing SMS alerts in March of this year, about the movement of elephants to prevent man-animal conflicts that killed 29 people last year.
When a wild elephant went on the rampage in February 2016, through a town in east India, they smashed cars and homes before being tranquilized and returned to the forest. The elephant wandered from the Baikunthapur forest, crossing roads and a small river before entering the town in search of food, Basab Rai, a divisional forest officer in the area said.
The dramatic image highlights how elephant-human conflicts are escalating and it is unknown what eventually happened to the two elephants in the award-winning picture,
“For these smart, gentle, social animals who have roamed the subcontinent for centuries, hell is now and here,” the magazine said.
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