The elephants brought home to us the fact that to actually do something on the ground is indeed very difficult.

A quick update: After the baby elephant died in childbirth, the herd stayed on for a while and then moved (minus one elephant) away to other Forest divisions. Now, after two months roaming (being driven around?) the Salem area, they are back in the Vellalapatti-Kathiripatti area near the Kalrayan Hills. It also seems that the mother did not move away with the rest of the herd, and died subsequently. She is buried near Erivalavu.

We need collaboration between those who now seem antagonistic towards one another.

The "Elephant People" who can advise, should have effective channels of communication. If e-mail IDs are defunct, they should be shut down: one needs to know that no-one is listening. If the experts are busy, surely they can pass the query on to a colleague or a student. I must also say that there were some who were extremely prompt in replying to e-mails from a complete stranger; they probably get many such e-mails ; and replying takes some doing.

The activists who work towards helping villagers get compensation for crop losses or house damage need to see that attacking the Forest Department gets one nowhere. In the end, it is the Forest Department who finally ACT on the ground.

The much-maligned Forest Department needs training, motivation and wherewithal to tackle the problem; ideally to see that a problem does not arise in the first place.There needs to be Department-Public interactions at multiple levels. An active web presence would help. Otherwise, the image of the Forest guard as a corrupt person who makes a quick buck out of others' (people or elephants) troubles is going to persist.

As a person on Ground Zero, as it were, my sentiments will be "It's OK, let the elephants eat a bit; let them damage a few trees" until they head for my house, when I shall have no recourse but to burst crackers, especially since that is what the Forest Department is doing.

For us and many of the villagers, there is no antagonism towards the elephants at the moment; in fact there is a sense of being enriched by their presence. But it will not take much for the situation to degenerate and become a "man-elephant" conflict.

It behooves us all to use the existing "goodwill" to save the situation. Trained koonkies to move the herd back where they belong? (though it is by no means clear where they belong). Or a long and arduous but necessary program of educating the villagers in what can be done; what must be done; if the elephants are to co-exist with them here.

Please, everyone, feel free to comment (again) on the blog. The elephants are here (again). Time is running out.