News Reading Practice #66

(100 Day Challenge)


Rahul Karmakar

Elephants in the eastern Himalayan floodplains bury their calves in a 'legs upright' position, a new study has found. Through long-term observation, the researchers also found that elephant herds tend to avoid the paths where the carcasses were buried and take parallel routes. 

"We aimed to understand the peri-mortem strategy and post-mortem behaviour of the Asian elephants. The major findings reflect that the carcasses were carried by trunks and legs for a distance before being buried in a 'legs upright' position," researchers said in the study published in the latest issue of the Journal of Threatened Taxa. 

Rampant environmental changes and forest destruction push Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) and their African counterparts (Loxodonta africana) to explore human spaces to fulfil their dietary and ecological requirements, leading to 'novel' elephant behaviours in shared spaces.

While elephant calf burial is mentioned in African literature, it has hardly been documented in the Asian context. Parveen Kaswan, an Indian Forest Service officer posted in Alipurduar of West Bengal and Akashdeep Roy of the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research in Pune studied five such cases in the northern Bengal landscape

The study area covered fragmented forests, tea estates, agricultural lands, and military establishments in the vicinity of the Gorumara Wildlife Division and Buxa Tiger Reserve. It explains the burial strategy of elephants in the irrigation drains of the tea estates. 

Marks on the bodies of the calves - the youngest weighing 160 kg was three or four months old while the oldest was about 12 months and weighed 350 kg suggested the elephants dragged them from a distance to be buried at preferred locations. 

The locations were irrigation drains of the tea estates where many elephants are born too, the study said. The "strange" positioning of each carcass with the legs upright could be because one or more members of a herd needed a better grip to hold and lay the calf delicately in the trench. 

"This strategic behaviour also reflects the care and affection of the herd member(s) towards the deceased. The behaviour suggests that in a situation of space crunch, the herd member(s) prioritise the head for the burial before the feet," the study said.


Strong bond: Elephants taking the carcass of an elephant calf for burial. SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT


CALF (PLURAL - CALVES) - Young elephant (ആനയുടേയും കന്നുകാലികളുടേയും കുട്ടി) 

BURY (NOUN - BURIAL) : Place in the ground after death (കുഴിച്ചുമൂടുക) 

UNTRODDEN PATHS: Not frequently traveled routes (സഞ്ചരിക്കാത്ത വഴികള്‍)  

FLOODPLAINS: Low-lying areas near rivers prone to flooding. (വെള്ളപ്പൊക്കം ഉണ്ടാകുന്നസ്ഥലം) 

UPRIGHT: Vertical position (ലംബമായി, നേരേ മുകളിലേക്ക് നില്‍ക്കുന്ന) 

OBSERVATION: Act of watching and studying (നിരീക്ഷണം) 

ELEPHANT HERDS: Groups of elephants (ആനക്കൂട്ടം) 

TEND: Have a tendency to (തുനിയുക, ശ്രമിക്കുക) 

CARCASS: Body of dead animals (ജന്തുക്കളുടെ ശവം) 

PARALLEL: Alongside, in the same direction (സമാന്തരമായി) 

PERI-MORTEM: Around the time of death (മരണസമയത്ത് നടക്കുന്ന) 

POST-MORTEM: After death (മരണശേഷമുള്ള, മൃതശരീരപരിശോധന) 

TRUNK: Long, flexible nose of an elephant (തുമ്പിക്കൈ) 

RAMPANT: Widespread and uncontrolled (വ്യാപകമായ) 

FOREST DESTRUCTION: Damage to forest (വനനശീകരണം) 

COUNTERPARTS: Equivalent or similar things (ഒരേപോലെയുള്ള, പ്രതിരൂപം) 

DIETARY: Related to food intake (ഭക്ഷണക്രമം) 

ECOLOGICAL: Related to the environment and ecosystems (പാരിസ്ഥിതികമായ) 

LANDSCAPE: Area of land and its features (ഭൂദൃശ്യം) 

FRAGMENTED FORESTS: Broken-up forest area (ശിഥിലമായ വനങ്ങള്‍) 

MILITARY ESTABLISHMENTS: Bases or facilities for military use (സൈനിക സ്ഥാപനങ്ങള്‍) 

IN THE VICINITY OF: Nearby area (ആ പരിസരത്ത്) 

IRRIGATION DRAIN: Channel for water drainage from fields (ജലസേചനത്തിനുള്ള ചാല്‍) 

WEIGHED: Had a specific weight (തൂക്കമുള്ള) 

DRAG: Pull along the ground (വലിച്ചിഴക്കുക) 

STRATEGIC BEHAVIOUR: Planned actions (തന്ത്രപരമായ പെരുമാറ്റം) 

AFFECTION: Feelings of care and fondness (വാത്സല്യം) 

DECEASED: DEAD (മരിച്ച) 

SPACE CRUNCH: Limited available space (സ്ഥലപരിമതി) 

PRIORITIZE: Give greater importance to (മുന്‍ഗണന നല്‍കുക) 

BURIAL: Act of placing a dead body in the ground (കുഴിച്ചുമൂടല്‍, ശവസംസ്‌കാരം)