Elephants claim 105 lives in 2 years; no solution in sight (India)


Manu Aiyappa, Times of India

Date Published

BENGALURU: Scarcity of fodder and water in forests – a conseqence of consecutive droughts – has resulted in increasing cases of human-elephant conflict in the state in the past three years. On average, nearly 35 people have been killed every year by elephants in the state in the past three years, which is nearly twice as many killed in such conflicts in the preceding years.

Data from the Karnataka forest department shows that while human-elephant conflicts account for the death of around 10 to 15 wild tuskers every year, on average, natural causes claim more elephant lives.

According to a forest department report, 105 people have died in human-elephant conflicts between March 2015 and May 7, 2017, and the government has paid Rs 5.20 crore in compensation to the families of these victims. While compensation paid to the family members of those killed in such conflicts was increased from Rs 2 lakh to Rs 5 lakh about three years ago, the amount paid by the government in cases of permanent incapacitation is Rs 2 lakh, and Rs 30,000 for grievous injuries.

Kodagu has registered the highest number of human casualties due to elephant attacks in the two-year period (21), followed by Tumakuru, Hassan, Ramanagara, Bengal uru Urban and Chamarajanagara – all of which have registered eight human casualties. In addition to this, crops in 300 hectares of agricultural land have been damaged by tuskers in this period.

Pointing to the rise in both human and elephant population, assistant conservator of forests (wildlife) C Jayaram said, “It’s misleading to conclude that cases of humanelephant conflicts are on the rise. The government has taken several measures, including digging trenches, setting up solar-powered fences and rail fencing, to prevent such incidents.

He added, “These have helped limit the occasions of wild animals straying into human habitats. The system is not foolproof, and there will be stray incidents such as the one we witnessed in Bannerghatta on Sunday .”

Wildlife experts, however, point out that the forest department’s initiatives to keep elephants at bay have not yielded desires results. “These animals are straying into human habitat in search of food and water, which have turned scarce because of drought, forest fires and urbanisation. We need to adopt a multi-pronged approach to solve the problem.Management of forest and wildlife falls under the purview of the state government,” said SN Girish, a wildlife activist.

The state government has proposed a three-tier system -trenches, electric fencing and a concrete wall -to prevent elephants from straying into villages and other human habitats contiguous with wildlife habitats. However, the proposal has stayed on paper, owing to lack of funds, said Jayaram.