Interaction meets to check man-elephant conflict (Kaziranga, India)


Assam Tribune

Date Published

In a bid to minimise the man-elephant conflict in the greater Numaligarh area, the Kaziranga Wildlife Society conducted interaction programmes between the villagers of affected villages and wildlife experts at Kachari Gaon, Pura Jongal and No. 1 and No. 2 Napathar today.

Sharing his experience in dealing with wild elephants in Udalguri district, journalist Jayanta Das said that Udalguri is the worst affected area due to elephant depredations and about 24 persons lost their lives in jumbo attacks in 2014. He said that at one point of time the situation had gone quite out of control as Forest officials and the district administration could not minimise the man-elephant conflict. Villagers were getting aggressive and personnel from the Dhansiri Forest Division were apprehensive of the public ire. Das told this correspondent that along with wildlife activist Mubina Akhtar, he formed a coordination committee comprising people from different walks of life, including local villagers, to find out a lasting solution to the issue.

The coordination committee was later contacted by the University of North Carolina which, in turn, persuaded the US Fish and Wildlife Service to initiate measures to provide requisite funds to the areas affected by wild elephants so that the lives and properties of the villagers of Udalguri district could be secured from marauding herds of elephants.

Das said that they also started a programme called ‘Elephants on the Line’ under which they carried out the other works to minimise the jumbo crisis. In 2014-2015, a high-level delegation from Bhutan, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh participated in the programme where issues relating to elephant migration and depredations and the steps to control the crisis were discussed extensively.

Measures like making a mixture of chilli powder, tobacco and cow dung and tying it to poles along elephant routes were accepted. The smell of the burning mixture repels elephants and the formula has worked in Udalguri as this year the casualty inflicted by wild elephants came down to six persons, said Das, adding that similar strategies can also be adopted in the greater Numaligarh area near Kaziranga.

Mubina Akhtar, secretary of Kaziranga Wildlife Society, said that villagers in the jumbo-affected areas of greater Numaligarh do not know how to approach the appropriate authorities for redress of grievances and grant of compensation. So the need of the hour is to conduct workshops on capacity building for the affected villagers.

Former Chief Conservator of Forests R Goswami said public participation is very essential in obtaining results, adding that the stakeholders should be given responsibilities so that they take active part in the conservation process and persuade other villagers to avoid conflicts with wild elephants.

During the interaction programme at No. 1 Napathar, a local farmer, Diganta Saikia, said that man and elephant must co-exist since wildlife is crucial to the survival of all creatures.