Senthil Kumaran Rajendran

6x6 Asia Talent: Senthil Kumaran Rajendran, India

“Senthil Kumaran documents his own country, and usually works on long term projects which allow him to go deeper in his stories.” Francoise Callier, Belgium, Angkor Photo Festival and Workshops Coordinator and 6x6 nominator

Senthil Kumaran is an independent visual storyteller from South India. Kumaran’s work focuses on social and environmental issues, with a personal approach. Over the past five years, his work has focused more on environmental and wildlife Projects.

Boundaries: Human and Tiger Conflict

India has 48 tiger reserves, and is home to an estimated 2300 of the 4000 last surviving wild tigers on this planet. The livelihood of the people residing in the thousands of villages around these sanctuaries is solely dependent on agriculture, livestock grazing, honey collecting and fishing. As the human population has increased, settlement, cultivation, and developmental activities have dramatically encroached on the natural habitat. A low prey base and a quickly-shrinking forest creates an ecological imbalance, where tigers very often share space with humans. Tigers pose a serious threat to humans, and prey on the livestock that many local communities depend on. In reciprocation, some local people poison their livestock to kill the tiger. In order to mitigate the human-tiger conflict, the government suggested human relocation as a solution. This has many practical hurdles however, as certain groups of people do not want to move from their place of origin and fight continually with the government.

Tamed Tuskers

A rapid growth in India’s development and human population has slashed the forest vegetation at a devastating rate of 1.5 million hectares every year, resulting in the destruction of wildlife habitat to a significant extent. This serious ecological imbalance between living space for humans and wildlife has led to a conflict across the country. These wild elephants, who each killed several people and are captured from this conflict zone, have now been tamed and trained by Kurumba people. For over 400 years, the Kurumba people have had a close association with the Asiatic elephant. Primarily inhabiting the Western Ghats of Southern India, their knowledge and expertise in working with elephants has been passed on through generations. The tamed Tuskers, or Kumkis, are in turn used to tame and train newly captured elephants from the wild. Kumkis are also very effective in leading wild elephants that have strayed into human habitation, back into the wild. The Kumkis are a part of the Kurumba family, where man and beast work together for over 12 hours a day. Through their work, the Kurumbas have ensured a reduction in human-elephant conflict situations and poaching.

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