Indian “Lady Tarzan” Talks to Elephants and They Listen

14-year-old Nirmala Toppo is the heroine of Rourkela, an industrial city located in the Indian state of Odisha, after she talked the elephants that had invaded the settlement into returning to the forest.

The Catholic girl from Jharkland claims she began talking to elephants after her mother was killed by some pachyderms. “I then decided to learn the techniques to drive them away”. The technique Nirmala refers to involves praying and literally talking to the elephants. “First I pray and then talk to the herd. They understand what I say”.¬†By using these simple “tricks”, the girl helped the authorities of Rourkela deal with a herd of elephants that had settled in a residential area of the city. “When the herd entered the city, we tried our best to contain its movement. We managed to make the herd go into the local football stadium, but we were not sure how we could drive them back to the forest. It was a difficult task,” forest official P. K. Dhola said. Out of options and pressed for time, they remembered that there was someone who could help them. “We knew of a tribal girl who lived in Jharkhand, who talked to elephants and was able to drive them back. We called up her father and she arrived along with some other tribal people from her village”.


Nirmala didn’t disappoint her people: she walked many miles with the elephants, until she got them back to the forests. This caused her infectious blisters on her feet, but as she states, “the infection is now gone and my wound has almost dried up”.¬†Although what Nirvala did worked as a charm, there are skeptical voices that doubt her methods. For example, the social activist Rabi Pradhan points out that there are no scientific studies demonstrating that elephants understand human vocabulary. Indeed, if there was a study asserting that, elephants would have to be polyglots. However, Nirmala claims that she speaks her tribal language when she addresses the elephants and that this is why they understand her.


Photo: Wikipedia

There are people who believe that elephants understand people as a result of their cohabitation. This sure sounds familiar, doesn’t it? As a member of the Jharkhand’s Simdega district council states, “we call Nirmala a lady Tarzan. Whenever marauding elephants enter a village or destroy crops, the local forest department officials never turn up. It is then that the villagers approach Nirmala for help. And she is able to successfully drive away the herd after talking to them”.


Photo: BBC

Almost 3000 elephants live in the forests of 3 Indian states, areas that witnessed many conflicts between humans and animals, especially because of the mining industry. A report of the ministry of environments and forests estimates that more than 80 people and 200 elephants were killed in the last 10 years.

Source: Matters India

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