Enraged elephants, terrifying tigers, and dangerous dinosaurs

enraged-elephants

Could the widespread ‘St George and the Dragon’ legends, in which a brave knight slays a dreadful dragon that has been terrorizing the countryside, bringing relief to the citizenry, be an indicator of how some dinosaur types became extinct? The parallels with the modern demise of the tiger and the Asian elephant are many.

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At times, nature really does seem, in Tennyson’s vivid phrase, “red in tooth and claw”—or at any rate, no place for the unwary. And it’s not just the carnivores you need to watch out for. Large herbivores also will throw their weight around—to deadly effect.

Asian elephants on the rampage!

Across Asia, wild elephants kill hundreds of people every year. An elephant can split a man’s skull with its trunk, or gore its victim with its tusks. But they mostly kill by knocking people over, then trampling them to death. Most attacks are blamed on forest clearance “disrupting traditional elephant migration routes and leading to violent clashes between people and elephants when hungry elephants raid crops.”1 Here are some (warning: graphic!) accounts:

In southern Thailand, “an elephant stomped three rubber plantation workers to death … . The female beast first crushed a 44-year-old male worker who was working in a farm, police Lieutenant Sonjit Ma-ou told reporters. ‘It then freely wandered into another plantation a few miles away and attacked a 38-year-old woman … grabbing her body with its trunk and hurling her on the ground before stomping on her body’.”1

In Malaysia, a wild elephant killed a couple walking in a forest in front of their daughter. “I saw my mother running away, with the elephant in pursuit.”1 In Nepal, officials were “hunting an elephant that has reportedly killed 11 people in the past two weeks … most of them while they were gathering firewood in the forest.”2 Similar occurrences could be cited from China and elsewhere.

It then attacked a 38-year-old woman … grabbing her body with its trunk and hurling her on the ground before stomping on her body.

In India, for example, a bank security guard was gored to death by a young wild elephant which had strayed into Mysore city. “The attack was filmed live … . The hapless man ran into one of the bylanes of this crowded locality, only to be outrun by the animal.”1

Sometimes the marauding creature is referred to as a ‘rogue’ elephant. This unfortunately implies that it’s only solitary individuals which depart from the perceived gentler ‘norms’ of elephant behaviour.3,4 But those on the frontline know better.

In Bangladesh, “herds of elephants stormed two farming villages near a forest”, killing three and injuring ten others.1

In rural India, a resident of a village that lost 11 told how one night “elephants quietly approached his mud, brick and thatch house and knocked down a wall, killing his mother. ‘We cannot sleep at night. The elephants have forced most of the villagers to seek shelter on rooftops’.”1

In Vietnam “[A] herd of elephants has killed at least 10 people. … Everybody is living in fear. No-one can work and people are afraid to stay in their homes because they may attack again at any time.”1

As mentioned, entire herds act in this way because of human encroachment on their natural habitat; “as the jungles are depleted and the animals have less space to forage and reproduce, they become enraged and strike back.”1

elephant-tiger-dinosaur

Going the way of the dinosaurs? By attacking people, the Earth’s last remaining elephants and tigers aren’t doing themselves any favours in the survival stakes.

In response, many villagers are fighting back, trying to remove the very real threat to their safety and livelihoods by killing elephants, often despite government prohibitions.5 The ones who succeed, rescuing their community from the elephant hazard, often earn high local regard.6 But some come to a grisly end, e.g. an Indonesian man “wounded a crop-raiding elephant with buckshot and then was chased up a tree. The elephant went back and forth between a stream and the tree, spraying the roots with water until it was able to push over the tree and trampled the poor man to death.”1

Given local people’s efforts to free themselves of the elephant menace7,8 (sometimes with government help9), it’s not surprising that in many countries wild Asian elephant numbers have dwindled to the point of being granted ‘endangered species’ status.10

Now, if herbivorous creatures evoke such fear and loathing, how much more so a sly, fearsomely toothed-and-clawed big cat carnivore? We shall see how tigers, too, have been wiped out from many areas they once stalked with relative impunity.

Singapore ‘singha’ slaughter

We cannot sleep at night. The elephants have forced most of the villagers to seek shelter on rooftops.

The island nation of Singapore derives its name from Sanskrit (singha = lion, pura = city). Students there are taught that the name was coined by a young Sumatran prince who saw what he described as a lion when he landed there in 1324. But lions have never inhabited the island. It’s now accepted he actually saw one of the tigers previously very common there, with once-plentiful prey of deer and wild boar. In fact, they were a serious menace as people began to settle there. When Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, known by many as the ‘founder of Singapore’, visited in 1819, the island was still largely tropical jungle and swamplands, “teeming with tigers”.11

Under British rule, there was a rapid loss of habitat for both the tiger and its prey as settlers moved in and the jungle was cleared for plantations. So, “close encounters with tigers resulting in violent confrontation were inevitable”.11

By 1840, tigers were killing 200–300 people per year. As settlement expanded, the attacks rose to a staggering 600–800 humans per year. So dangerous was the area near Bukit Timah that it was nicknamed ‘Tiger Resort’.12

Desperate, colonial authorities offered generous bounties for killing tigers. Within two decades, the attacks on humans had become much rarer, and the last wild tiger in Singapore was shot dead in 1930.12

Colonel Corbett—a modern ‘St George’

In India in the 19th century and early 20th century, tigers killed an average of 860 people per year. Little wonder that those who successfully killed a man-eating tiger were hailed as heroes.

Most famous of these was Colonel Edward James (‘Jim’) Corbett, born in northern India in 1875.11 He was renowned for tracking down and killing ‘problem tigers’—alone and on foot, armed with a rifle. To Corbett, any tiger that killed even just one person was a problem tiger.13

en.wikipedia.org

Colonel-Corbett

Colonel Edward James Corbett standing beside one of the tigers he is famous for killing—this one was known as the ‘Bachelor of Powalgarh’

By 1938, Corbett had managed to successfully slay a dozen man-eater tigers, which in total had killed more than 1500 people in northern India. The most renowned and feared was “the Champawat Man-eater”, named for the district in Uttar Pradesh it terrorized for half a decade. It holds the record (436) for the total number of humans attacked and eaten by a single tiger.

This female man-eater had actually been chased out of Nepal in 1905 by a battalion of Nepalese soldiers, after she had eaten more than two hundred people. Settling in India, the tigress “wreaked unprecedented havoc”11 by preying on men, women, and children around the village of Champawat.

Jim Corbett pledged to slay the man-eater, and began hunting it—but the tiger was able to elude the lone stalker. So Corbett employed a large troupe of villagers to bang drums, pots, and pans and force the tiger out into the open. The strategy worked:

“They drove the angrily roaring tiger out of its den. The man-eater saw Corbett and charged at him with full fury. Keeping his cool, Corbett raised his cordite rifle and felled the vicious beast with three rapid shots.”11

Corbett’s tiger-slaying exploits have been glamorized and retold in India ever since. And in 1957, two years after his death, the Indian Government honoured him, designating a tiger reserve as Corbett National Park.14

Understanding the dinosaurs

The parallels between the extinction of the dangerous dinosaurs and the localized ‘extinction’ of elephants and tigers in various areas today are many. Unquestionably, many of the dinosaurs were dangerous to humans. In 1405 in Suffolk, England:

The elephant went back and forth between a stream and the tree, spraying the roots with water until it was able to push over the tree and trampled the poor man to death.

“Close to the town of Bures, near Sudbury, there has lately appeared, to the great hurt of the countryside, a dragon, vast in body, with a crested head, teeth like a saw, and a tail extending to an enormous length. Having slaughtered the shepherd of a flock, it devoured many sheep.”15

The menace posed by large rampaging reptiles had been known by the early Britons—one account documents the killing of King Morvidus (Morydd) in circa 336 BC by a reptilian monster which “gulped down the body of Morvidus as a big fish swallows a little one”.15

There were plenty of opportunities for ‘St George’ types to display their courage against these fearsome creatures. One such was the Scandinavian hero Beowulf, famed by the Danes for his prowess at killing terrifying reptilian creatures that made their life a misery, including the ‘Grendel’, a bipedal marsh-dweller that exacted a terrible human toll:

“The Danes employed an eotanweard (lit. a giantward, a watcher for monsters), to warn of Grendel’s approach, but often in vain. For so silent was Grendel’s approach when he was hunting in the darkness of the night that sometimes the eotanweard himself was surprised and eaten. On one particular and long-remembered night, no less than thirty Danish warriors were killed by Grendel. Little wonder then that Beowulf was rewarded so richly and was so famed for having slain him.”15

And little wonder also that such bipedal dinosaurs aren’t such a menace today. But if they were still around, perhaps hanging on to existence in a remote jungle somewhere, they would surely be granted ‘endangered’ status, just as have the tiger and elephant.

In contrast to evolutionary claims, the sedimentary rock layers containing fossils are not a ‘record’ of evolution and extinction over a millions-of-years timeframe, but rather a legacy of burial in the global Flood (around 4,500 years ago) and its aftermath. All the kinds of land animals (including dinosaurs) and birds survived aboard the Ark, repopulating the Earth afterwards. Since then, many creatures have gone extinct, not just dinosaurs, in an ongoing display of the Curse on Creation. Just as can be seen happening in various localities with elephants and tigers today, it’s likely that some dinosaurs perished through human influence, being a direct threat to man’s safety or because of loss of habitat (to agriculture or urban encroachment). The Bible is key to ‘understanding the dinosaurs’.

whaling-Spitsbergen

en.wikipedia.org

Extinction without guns?

Some might wonder how people could kill some of the larger dinosaurs without modern weapons. But people killed whales that were larger than any dinosaur, from sailing boats, using teamwork and handlaunched harpoons. And this on the whales’ ‘home turf’. Hunters have used such things as fire, traps and curare (poison) to capture/kill large animals. The drying out of the continents after the Flood—all continents once had extensive inland seas—could also have been a factor in the demise of the dinosaurs. It seems that dinosaurs were like hippos, inhabiting areas with plenty of water, and the drying out of the land resulted in a contraction of areas suitable for them. The wax and wane of the post-Flood Ice Age would have also impacted dinosaur survival.

References and notes

  1. Attacks by wild Asian elephants, factsanddetails.com, acc. 29 July 2014. Return to text
  2. Page, J., Rogue elephant on a rampage kills 11 villagers, independent.ie, 10 December 2009. Return to text
  3. Randolph, E., Rogue elephant terrorises villagers in India, thenational.ae, 10 December 2011. Return to text
  4. Chandra, S., Operation underway to capture 23 rogue jumbos, deccanherald.com, 23 January 2014. Return to text
  5. Indonesians threaten to poison elephants, orangutans.com.au, 8 May 2008. Return to text
  6. Trailing a rogue elephant, tribuneindia.com, 31 August 2003. Return to text
  7. Two Sumatran elephants poisoned, panda.org, 22 December 2006. Return to text
  8. Indonesian elephants found dead, poisoning suspected, globalpost.com, 24 February 2014. Return to text
  9. O’Hare, S., Army hunts ‘mad’ killer elephant in Nepal: ‘Wild beast’ pulls couple from bed then tramples them to death, dailymail.co.uk, 18 December 2012. Return to text
  10. World Wildlife Fund—Asian elephants, panda.org, acc. 14 August 2014. Return to text
  11. Mishra, H., Bones of the Tiger: Protecting the man-eaters of Nepal, Lyons Press, Guilford, Conn., USA, 2010. Return to text
  12. Victor, M., Lion City, Tiger Land: Singapore’s native cat on the brink of extinction, latitudes.nu, 29 November 2011. Return to text
  13. Cf. Genesis 9:5. Return to text
  14. In fact, the reserve’s existence in the first place was due to Corbett having earlier spoken out about the need to protect India’s wildlife from extermination—it was this reserve that was renamed in 1957 in his honour. Return to text
  15. Cooper, B., After the Flood—The early post-flood history of Europe traced back to Noah, New Wine Press, Weybridge, Surrey, UK, 1995. (Excerpted from pp. 131, 133, 150, 157, 160.)

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