Friday, September 18, 2015

The Tusk That Did the Damage by Tania James

In The Tusk That Did the Damage, by Tania James tells the story of ivory poaching in southern India from three different points of view: the poachers; American documentary film makers; and an elephant, a rogue man-killer who buries his victims after the kill. Orphaned and captured by poachers as a young calf, the Gravedigger eventually escapes captivity and terrorizes the countryside, destroying crops and human life at will. The poachers hunt elephants to protect their crops and community and, also, for the valuable ivory tusks.  Brothers Jayan and Manu have lost a cousin to an attack by the Gravedigger and set out to kill the elephant as much for revenge as for his tusks. Jayan has killed elephants previously and even served prison time for the crime, but Manu is a gentler soul and very conflicted over the plan. Meanwhile, the American film makers document the work of an Indian veterinarian who has devoted his life to protecting elephants. Elephants are a species that needs protecting, but a rampaging elephant can destroy the lives and resources of people who have very little to start with, people who have their own need for protection. This struggle involves both man versus nature and man versus man. It’s an age old conflict with the addition of two modern elements: overpopulation and endangered species.