The image shows a calf on fire as it and an adult elephant run for their lives — as a crowd of “jeering” people throw “flaming tar balls” and firecrackers at the pair.
The photograph taken on State Highway 9 in Jhargram district of West Bengal a year and a half ago by wildlife photographer Biplab Hazra won the 2017 Photograph of the Year award given by the wildlife photography magazine Sanctuary Asia on Sunday.
The photograph triggered horrified responses on social media, with one Twitter user saying it “is a searing testimony of human monstrosity.”
Hazra said the humiliation of elephants was a regular occurrence in the Bankura district of West Bengal, just like other Indian states with large Asian elephant populations. The country is home to 70 per cent of the world’s species.
India is home to over 70 percent of the global population of Asian elephants, but the region has often been in the news for human deaths caused by encounters with elephants.
In March of this year, forest officials in West Bengal’s Bankura district started issuing SMS alerts about the movement of elephants to prevent man-animal conflicts that killed 29 people last year.