Meet 14-Yr-Old Girl Who Talks To Elephants And They Obey!
Fourteen-year old Nirmala Toppo has become a celebrity in the Eastern Indian state of Orissa. In June, panic gripped the industrial city of Rourkela one night when a herd of wild elephants entered residential areas from dense forests nearby. Nirmala, forest department officials say, acted as a real-life "pied-piper" when she managed to drive the herd back to the forest, much to the relief of the residents. She walked many miles with the herd, guiding it out of town, in the process getting blisters on her legs which later turned septic. "The infection is now gone and my wound has almost dried up," she told BBC Hindi from her hospital bed where her treatment was organised by the local Red Cross Society. Pitch invasion State forest department officials sought help from Nirmala, who is originally from the neighbouring state of Jharkhand, when they could not get the elephants to leave the city. Forest official PK Dhola says: "When the herd entered the city, we tried our best to contain its movement. There were 11 of them, including two calves. We managed to make the herd go into the local football stadium, but we were not sure how we could drive them back to the forest. It was a difficult task." Mr Dhola says that was when the department decided to seek Nirmala's help. "We knew of a tribal girl who lived in Jharkhand, who talked to elephants and was able to drive them back. We called up her father and she arrived along with some other tribal people from her village."
The state government paid the girl for her services, he added. Nirmala says she talks to the herd in her local tribal dialect - Mundaari - and persuades the animals to "return to where they belong". "First I pray and then talk to the herd. They understand what I say. I tell them this is not your home. You should return where you belong," says Nirmala who is a Roman Catholic. Her mother, she says, was killed by wild elephants and that was when she decided to learn the technique to drive them away. In her work, she is assisted by her father and a group of boys from her village. "We surround the herd. Then I go near them and pray and talk to them."