Endangered elephants and lathi-shaking: behind the front pages

Do you remember the wild elephant you saw at the weekend? There are still more than 15,000 surviving elephants in India. But recently the photo of one of them had pride of place in…

Endangered elephants and lathi-shaking: behind the front pages

Do you remember the wild elephant you saw at the weekend? There are still more than 15,000 surviving elephants in India. But recently the photo of one of them had pride of place in the front pages of newspapers around the world. It was pictured standing proud with two other elephants which were guarding a dead person lying by the side of the road.

The dead man was hit by a car and killed. The other two elephants stood in shock as they looked on. But they were spared when they stood their ground, a behaviour which is known as lathi-shaking.

Lathi-shaking is a common scenario in Africa. When elephants are confronted with a fallen human, they automatically rush to form a protective ring around him. The effect of lathi-shaking increases the chance of survival for the elephants and their kill.

This has been recorded across Africa for more than a thousand years. In the Little lakes in Tanzania and Uganda, where the recorded stories originated, a friendly village in the distance welcomes two herds of elephants. But one night, the neighbours come over in a drunken haze and start beating the elephants with lathis.

The elephants have seen and heard this before and understand that they must stand guard over the victim until a process is completed which ensures that he will live. The attackers, who are unfamiliar with the simple meaning of lathi-shaking, are angered by this protection and shoot their gun in the air as they drive away.

In one of the paintings, the pictures of the killing of the first victim and the return of the second victim with the body of the first are engraved on the bench with the symbol of the elephant head.

This drawing shows the moment when the attack on the first elephant breaks out. We see that the elephant is facing the wall of the enemy, stands his ground and is steadfast in his movement. The elephant is riding for his life.

The article also contains facts and figures about ancient elephants.

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