Biplab Hazra has won the Sanctuary Wildlife Photographer of the Year award for his shocking image of an elephant and calf being attacked by a mob in West Bengal. The image, titled Hell is Here shows the crowd of people throwing flame-soaked balls of tar and crackers at the animals, allegedly attempting to keep them away from villages in the Bankura district.
Sanctuary Asia, the conservation foundation that runs the awards, states that, in this area, “this sort of humiliation of pachyderms is routine, as it is in the other elephant-range states of Assam, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu and more. India is the world’s stronghold for the Asian elephant and boasts over 70% of the global population of the species. But this achievement rings hollow as vital elephant habitats and routes continue to be ravaged, and human-elephant conflict escalates to a fatal degree”.
It continues: “The ignorance and bloodlust of mobs that attack herds for fun, is compounded by the plight of those that actually suffer damage to land, life and property by wandering elephants and the utter indifference of the central and state government to recognise the crisis that is at hand. For these smart, gentle, social animals who have roamed the sub-continent for centuries, hell is now and here.”
Other category winners included Anand Bora, who photographed villagers in Maharashtra, India rescuing a leopard; and Vishruth Cavale, who won Young Photographer of the Year for his shot of a captured shark ray in an orange crate, its open eye creating a poignant and sad depiction of the declining species.