Majuli: A herd of 70-80 wild elephants entered the Salmara village in river island Majuli and caused large scale damage to crops and to the residences of at least five people in the area.
It is to be noted that the condition of elephants seems dire, as they face an all-encompassing threat such as shrinkage of their forest ranges, habitat defragmentation, poaching for their body parts and captivity, and anthropogenic pressure.
Meanwhile, locals people alleged that these wild herd of elephants has been running riot over the 19 years in the Salmara village of the river island Majuli, however, the forest department had completely failed to maintain the present situation.
The elephant-human conflict poses a grave threat to their continued existence. Studies on the conflict between elephants and humans in Asia and in Africa have identified crop-raiding as the main form of conflict.
Elephant-human conflict is a result of habitat loss and fragmentation. When elephants and humans interact, there is conflict from crop-raiding, injuries and deaths to humans caused by elephants, and elephants being killed by humans for reasons other than ivory and habitat degradation.
Elephants cause damage amounting from a few thousand dollars to millions of dollars. Every year, 100 humans (in some years it maybe 300 people) and 40-50 elephants are killed during crop-raiding in India.
Lethal retaliation against elephants
Such encounters foster resentment against the elephants amongst the human population and this can result in elephants being viewed as a nuisance and killed. This was illustrated in the case of >60 elephants found dead in retaliation incidents in NE India and Sumatra in 2001, poisoned by plantation workers.
Human-elephant conflict can take their toll both on human lives and property as well as elephant populations. Ways of reducing or resolving such conflicts are vital for the viable conservation of Asian elephants.
Elephants across Asia live in a variety of habitats and landscapes. These include large contiguous areas surrounded by crop fields, or in highly degraded areas with other agricultural encroachments and they are also found in fragmented landscapes with a mosaic of crop fields, plantations and patches of forest.
The pattern of crop-raiding and the immediate reasons that induce elephants to raid crops vary. Elephants may prefer feeding on crops when compared to wild forage because of their higher nutritive content and palatability.
However, latest studies on Asian elephants living in contiguous compact habitats show that not all elephants in a population raid crops. However, in highly fragmented landscapes, the entire population may be involved in the elephant-human conflict.
In addition to these direct conflicts between humans and elephants, elephants also suffer indirect costs like degradation of habitat and loss of food plants.