I was pained to read this news in Assam Tribune. Man-elephant conflict is raging in various parts of the country. It has been rightly pointed out in the news item that the main reason is the depletion of the habitat and human settlements cutting off the migratory corridor.
Man-elephant conflict intensifies along Bhutan border
GUWAHATI, Oct 5 – Areas bordering Bhutan in Udalguri district now resemble a battle zone amidst an escalating man-elephant conflict, with disturbing consequences for both. A spurt in the conflict has claimed the lives of six elephants this year, with the past one month alone witnessing the death of three elephants. Equally damaging has been the fatality on the human side, with about eight persons trampled by elephants in the past one year.
In what has assumed the form of a vicious cycle, marauding herds of elephants looking for food inflict heavy damage on crops, with the villagers – whose sustenance is agriculture – indulging in retaliatory killing, mainly through poisoning and electrocution.
At the root of the problem, however, lies the growing depletion of elephant habitat, and corridors that had once ensured contiguity of forest belts necessary for uninterrupted migration of the pachyderms.
Acknowledging the gravity of the situation, Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), Dhansiri Division, Bankim Sarma told The Assam Tribune that notwithstanding some short-term measures such as use of fire crackers and trained kunkis (domesticated elephants) to ward off raiding wild herds, the problem stood to worsen unless lost forest covers and elephant corridors were restored.
“This is an extremely serious situation, and we are trying our best to normalise it to the extent possible. We have pressed into service some kunkis along with other short-term measures. We are also having regular meetings with villagers to enhance their awareness so that they do not confront the elephants aggressively whenever they see them,” Sarma said, adding that NGOs were also lending a helping hand and several villages made a pledge that there would be no elephant deaths in their areas.
Constraints of infrastructure and manpower, coupled with the difficult terrain, have also impeded smooth movement of the forest staff to tackle the invading herds. “We need to be present at the site when elephants come down to cropland but the rugged terrain and lack of vehicles invariably slow down our efforts,” Sarma said, adding that late release of funds had also been a constraint affecting payment of ex-gratia for elephant-induced death or damage besides hampering routine activities of the forest staff.
Another peculiar habit with the elephants not seen in earlier years – something which has added to the woes of the forest staff – is that the original big herd scatters into a number of smaller groups while descending on cropland.
“Earlier, one big herd used to roam together, which made it easier to monitor and keep track of their movements. But now we have to be on the alert for several smaller herds, which is difficult,” he added.
Sarma revealed that the elephants creating trouble in the area belonged to a herd with a population of 248 as per the latest census. Forests in the area form part of the Ripu-Chirang Elephant Reserve besides constituting a buffer zone of the Manas Tiger Reserve.
The original news item can be found at the following link: