Elephants rampage crops in Gelephu (Bhutan)


Nirmala Pokhrel, Kuensel

Date Published

Leela Devi Dhaurali, 43, used to harvest at least 1,000kg rice from her 80-decimal paddy field in Gelephu annually. But, this year, she is afraid she that she should have nothing to harvest. A huge herd of elephant destroyed her field and damaged the crops on September 10.

She said that her paddy had just started flowering. While flowering paddy was been eaten, other crops were trampled.  “My whole year’s ration is lost overnight, what is more saddening than this,” she said. “With increasing number of elephants the damaged is also huge.”

Earlier too the elephants encroached her field but the damaged was minimal.  She added that when her days of hard work is damaged overnight, it is discouraging to work in the fields.

Leela’s neighbor, Monurath Katel, lost more than 30 decimals of paddy to the same herd of elephant that night.

Monurath Katel said that when the herd is large, farmers can barely do anything to chase away the animals. “They attack crops at night and it become risky for us to chase them,” he said.

With 30-decimal paddy damaged of the total of an acre cultivated, Monurath lost at least 500kgs of annual rice harvest. “This is a huge loss,” he said. “I’m hopeful that some of the paddy that have been trampled over will flower.”

On the same night, the same herd of elephant damaged four other farmer’s paddy. A total of at least two-acre paddy was entirely trampled and eaten. Most of the damages were in Perlithang-Khatey village and Setikharey area.

According information gathered by the Gelephu gewog, a few days earlier several areca nut trees and banana tree were felled. Elephants felled a total of 24 fruiting areca nut trees in Lekithang.

Another 42 fruiting banana trees were also felled in Lekithang and Pemathang. When it some to elephant encroachment into the villages there is least the forestry officials are able to do.

Ranger officer Singye Wangchuk in Gelephu said that there are about four herds of elephant that are encroaching almost all gewogs in Sarpang. Besides creating awareness and cautioning people to be careful, the office is able to do least to minimize elephant encroachment.

However, to respond to villagers need at least four staff equipped with weapon patrol around the villages every night. “The situation is difficult, despite our untimely duty we’re able to do least to chance them away,” he said.

He said when chased once, the animals do move to a different location but to only cause damage in the next village. “It is a national issue and we do not know what to do. Whatever we are doing here is a solution for a day or two,” he said.

Meanwhile, farmers here continue to spend sleepless nights guarding their field. Crop damages are expected more in the coming months when it is time for paddy harvest.