India is one of the most densely populated countries in the world and in their quest for land, humans have left little room for elephants.
Forest clearing for roads, farmland and others infrastructures, as well as illegal encroachment into protected areas, have caused significant habitat loss and fragmentation. The animals have in many places lost access to their main sources of food and shelter.
This has led some herds to migrate from their traditional habitats and to look for food on the farmlands and plantations that have replaced their forest homes. As a result, many elephants end up being in a constant state of conflict with humans.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature has been listing the Indian elephant as endangered since 1986.
That's the case of the herd captured on video by Sanctuary Nature Foundation. Constituted of 25 elephants, it is stuck in small forest patches located in a densely populated area known as Athgarh. In the evening, the animals leave the tranquillity of forest to find food, but they are often met by a mob of angry men, who pelt the elephants with stones, shout abuse and block their paths.
The Athgarh herd used to live in the Chandaka-Dampara Wildlife Sanctuary, not far from Bhubaneshwar, Orissa's main city. The park was home to about 90 elephants in 2001 but only eight are thought to remain there today.
Years of deforestation and urban expansion into the protected park forced the elephants to go and look for shelter, water and food elsewhere. The herd caught on this footage is one of such 'refugee herds', which ended up being trapped in small woodlands in the middle of a human-dominated environment.
Although some of the men are only trying to protect their crops from the elephants, conservationists worry that the herd is routinely attacked by some as a form of entertainment.
Aditya Chandra Panda, an Orissa-based wildlife conservationist told IBTimes UK:
"The harassment of the herd began the moment they arrived in the area, about five years ago. They sometimes come out of the forest on land that has traditionally been productive for agriculture so people did not take kindly to it. However farmers are being compensated by the government".
"But even when elephants emerge where there are no crops to destroy and people still gang up on them and harass them - it is a form of entertainment. It is not a question of educating them, many know what they are doing, but you cannot reason with a mob".
However, he thinks some solutions are still possible. The forest department is collecting accurate information about the movements of the elephants and finding out in advance near which village they are going to emerge in the evening. On the short term, there is a need for the district administration and the police to get involved and help with crowd control in these areas. Local law enforcement needs to step in and potentially, to impose a curfew but they are often reluctant to do so.
On the long term, better planning of infrastructure development, restoring forest passages between habitats and promoting the voluntary relocation of village outside wildlife sanctuaries could make a real difference for the elephants.