Trained jumbos to rein in their wild counterpart (India)

Trained jumbos to rein in their wild counterpart (India)

Express News Service 
October 8, 2011

BHUBANESWAR: The State Government has decided to raise an army of “kunkis,” trained jumbos, to handle the man-elephant conflict. The trained elephants are expected to rein in the marauding wild pachyderms.

One of the major conflict zones in eastern India, Orissa has witnessed a rise in loss of human and elephant lives, damage to crops and property leading to retaliation by the people. The Government has had to raise ex gratia compensation manifold to quell the resentment in man-animal conflict areas.

Lately though, the Forest department has been training its elephants, mostly the ones that are creating trouble. Currently, it has six on the job and two more will join the force soon. Chief Wildlife Warden J D Sharma says plans are afoot to raise the number of trained elephants to 50, one in each division, so that the department will have the necessary number to counter the problem.

The kunkis will be kept in a pool. Currently, Chandaka Wildlife Division plays the training camp for kunkis where an Assam-based trainer has been imparting nuances of handling the jumbos to mahouts.

However, dearth of mahouts is the real challenge for the Forest department to raise the kunki army. With 50 kunkis, the department will need at least 50 mahouts, if not more, as a fixed number but less numbers of willing candidates has become a problem.

“We cannot get enough men showing interest to take up the difficult job of mahouts,” admits Chief Wildlife Warden Sharma.

Mahouts, being skilled people, and the profession being essentially hereditary in the past, the Forest department is looking for traditional mahout families in different parts of the State. “Besides, I have even spoken to my counterparts in Karnataka and Assam for getting trained elephants to Orissa.”

The Forest department, he said, would go for an advertisement seeking mahouts. The recruitment process will be the one the department follows as part of the Government process, but it is looking for youngsters who are passionate about wildlife. It is even ready to pay more than what it pays at present as remuneration, close to Rs. 4,500 a month.

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