India

India award for burning elephant photo

Two elephants, set ablaze by a mob, cross the road to flee Image copyright Biplab Hazra/Sanctuary Wildlife Photography Awards
Image caption The elephants had to run for their lives as a mob threw burning tar balls at them

An image of two elephants fleeing a mob that set them on fire has won top entry in a wildlife photography competition.

(Warning: The full version of this image is below - some may find it distressing.)

Biplab Hazra's picture shows a calf on fire as it and an adult elephant run for their lives in eastern India.

Announcing the award, Sanctuary magazine said "this sort of humiliation... is routine".

The photo was taken in West Bengal, where human-elephant conflict is rife.

It's unclear what eventually happened to the two elephants in the award-winning picture, which was taken in Bankura district.

The district has often been in the news for human deaths caused by encounters with elephants.

Two elephants, set ablaze by a mob, cross the road to flee Image copyright Biplab Hazra/Sanctuary Wildlife Photography Awards
Image caption This was one of 27 images honoured by the annual Sanctuary Wildlife Photography Awards

The magazine's note accompanying the photograph explains that this was also a case of human-elephant conflict.

The note says a "crowd of jeering men" were flinging "flaming tar balls and crackers" at the two elephants when Biplab Hazra took the photograph.

He recalls the calf screaming in "confusion" as it fled.

"For these smart, gentle, social animals who have roamed the subcontinent for centuries, hell is now and here," he added.

The photograph has attracted a lot of attention on social media

Mainak Mazumder, who lives in Bankura, commented that villagers were responsible for "heavy habitat destruction" and that "elephants have been subjected to terrible abuses and tortures".

But, he said, elephants also have "wreaked havoc" by destroying crops, damaging farmland, and have "killed innocent people".

Photo by Biplab Hazra