Elephant Whisperer: Indian teen saves villages from herds of wild elephants using her voice, a torch and body language

Published: June 5, 2014
Elephant whisperer

File: A herd of wild elephants roams in the Kalabari forest close to the village of Naxalbari, close to the India-Nepal border. DIPTENDU DUTTA/AFP/Getty Images

VANCOUVER DESI

A 17-year-old girl from India’s north eastern state of Odisha is being hailed as the “Elephant Whisperer” as she continues to save local villages from herds of elephants – even though the animals killed her father.

According to Britain’s Daily Mail, Nirmala Topno, of Rourkela – about 500 kilometres west of Kolkata – is known as the only woman in her area able to fend off wild elephants that roam into the nearby villages. People have witnessed her handle up to 17 wild elephants.

Despite her small frame, the teenager is able to somehow communicate with the animals and coerce them back into the jungle, the Daily Mail reported.

Nirmala believes her skill simply comes down to her tone of voice, body language, a flame torch and making direct eye contact with the elephant.

According to the British tabloid, these are all skills Nirmala learned from her father Marino who would regularly fend off the animals with other local men. But Marino died last year at the age of 50 while on the job.

Although Nirmala was there to watch the herd of elephants kill her father, she’s vowed to carry on.

“No woman in my area has ever dared to do what I do – never mind a girl my age,” she told the Daily Mail.”Because of my courage, people have started calling me the Elephant Whisperer. They believe that I have a certain power that makes elephants listen to me.”

“I get nervous when I’m close to elephants, but once I succeed and do my job I feel extremely happy.”

According to the Daily Mail, the local government gave her family more than $3,000 after her father’s death and also gave her mother a job to help support the family and offered Nirmala a job as a guard to protect animals from poachers with the forest department. She’ll start once she finishes school.

“I know they’ve given me this promise of a job because of who my father was and what we could do together,” she said. “If he were still here there would be no job, so it’s hard for me to feel happy.”

“But if my father was alive today he would have been very proud of my work. He would’ve liked that his daughter was making a name for herself. He’d be very happy for me.”

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