Man-elephant conflict: Is there any solution?
Numaligarh: Herds of wild elephants continue to stray into human habitat areas across the places of Numaligarh-Golaghat. It has been almost a month or two since the seasonal rice crop harvesting season is over and now it is a common picture here in most parts of the area to see wild elephant herds in tea gardens and small tree bushes during the day time.
At night, the herds enter villages, razing down houses, damaging rice stocks and other household assets. A wild elephant herd damaged more than 10 houses and a church in various places of the Numaligarh-Morongi area last week. As per data available, the areas under the Bukhial forest beat office under the Golaghat forest division have seen the worst scenario of man-elephant conflict in the past. More than 30 elephants have died outside protected areas (within revenue areas) during 1989-2017 under the Bukhial forest beat office alone.
Electrocution, accidents, and injuries are some of the major causes of the death of these elephants. Humans too are at the receiving end. More than 20 human deaths and numerous human injuries due to conflict between man and pachyderms were reported in the same period. The numbers are also of grave concern in other forest beats like Juriadolong, Numaligarh, and Murphulani under Golaghat forest division.
The forest department seems to be unable to tackle the man-elephant conflict with a limited number of assets and foresters. With the passing of time, following the shrinking forest cover and lack of vegetation, elephants have developed new survival strategies. According to wildlife experts, elephants are social animals and prefer to stay in big herds close to each other. But now they have adopted new methods of survival like splitting into small groups. Talking to this correspondent, one forester stated that it is really not an easy task for them to push these elephants out of human-populated areas as the elephants split into small groups and go in different directions.
One villager from a conflict zone also stated that earlier elephants came in the undivided single herd and it was easy to push them off the paddy fields with collective efforts, but these days the pachyderms seem to be developed new ideas. “Now they come in multiple groups or small herds and go on different sides of the paddy fields. There is no way we or foresters can drive them off out of paddy fields during nights. These crop raiders have become really a cause of headache for us,” the villager added.
During the last crop season, elephants have damaged thousands of hectares of cropland in many areas of Numaligarh-Golaghat. After the harvesting season, the elephants without adequate vegetation or food go for rice stocks and other available food options in villages. Wildlife experts and nature lovers have also raised the issue of shrinking forest cover in the region. It is also alleged that massive encroachment is still going on in the name of development. Setting up of various industries, expansion of tea gardens and other human development activities near wildlife sanctuaries and protected forest areas have become a serious threat to the elephants and other wildlife. People have demanded strict action against these encroachments in protected forest land.