PUNE: A simple cellphone-based warning system can reduce loss of lives and crops in human-elephant conflicts zones like those in Sindhudurg and Kolhapur districts, said wildlife scientist Ananda Kumar.
The conservationist is the recipient of 2015’s Whitley Award, regarded as the green Oscar, for preventing human deaths in Tamil Nadu’s Valparai area in the Anamalai hills – home to the second largest elephant population of the country. Ananda Kumar, who was in the city recently for a felicitation, described the work done by his Nature Conservation Foundation in devising solutions to end human-elephant conflicts through a simple crowd-sourcing based information system that gives alerts of exact location of elephant sightings to its subscribers.
The system, developed by Kumar and his team after extensive research on elephant behaviour and patterns, has managed to bring down annual fatalities to one, against the average of three deaths prior to launching the system in the tea and coffee plantations of Valparai plateau. “In an elephant-dense territory, conflicts are bound to happen. We worked on ways that allow both to live with each other. There are no problem animals, but problem locations. During our research, we spotted a pattern in the fatal cases – of the 42 people who died in direct conflict with elephants between 2002 and 2015, 37 did not know there are elephants near them and bumped into them accidently. Besides, 72% of all conflicts happened on the roads and late in the evenings or at night. This analysis formed the basis of our solution,” said Ananda Kumar.
Involvement of the local residents is essential, he said. “We invited them to share information. Intially, we used to get calls from villagers asking us for information about elephants, now almost 80% of the calls are of informers,” he added.