KOLKATA: Senior foresters from Bengal, Jharkhand, Odisha and Chhattisgarh, in a joint meeting held almost after a decade on Wednesday, pledged to work together to allow free passage to the elephants that usually venture out of Jharkhand’s Dalma sanctuary every year and move towards Chhattisgarh, Bengal and Odisha using their age-old corridors.
Citing a recent TOI report, that highlighted how the jumbo corridors are being blocked on the Odisha border by the ‘villagers of the neighbouring state’ triggering conflict in Bengal, the chief wildlife warden (CWLW) of Bengal, Ujjwal Bhattacharya, drew the attention of his counterparts from the other states. “The Odisha foresters said that they would look into the issue and assured us that any effort to block the elephants’ migratory route, either by putting up electric wire fencing or digging trenches, would be dealt with a tough hand,” said Bhattacharya, adding that such a joint meeting took place almost after nine years.
In the meeting held at Jamshedpur, the foresters also decided to meet more frequently to share information not only about elephants’ movement but also on timber smuggling and other wildlife offences. “The aim of the discussion is to secure the jumbos’ habitat. Besides, the foresters from the other states also showed interest in sharing of technology like, radio telemetry, collaring and camera traps being used for wildlife conservation in Bengal,” Bhattacharya added.
Meanwhile, the CWLW said that they are planning to introduce the immuno-contraception technique to check jumbo populations by this year. “We have already held several discussions with the WWF-eastern region, the facilitator of the project. It’s being currently used in Africa. But, we need permission from the Drug Controller General of India and Union health ministry before importing the drugs. These issues are being discussed at the moment,” Bhattacharya said, adding that before applying the technique on wild elephants, a pilot project will be undertaken on the captive jumbos.
According to him, if the pilot project turns out to be successful, the technique will be applied on free-ranging jumbos in north Bengal first. Immuno-contraception is a non-hormonal birth control method to check breeding in wild animal populations. The method has been used to successfully control populations of deer and horses in North America, as well as African elephants in South Africa.
Earlier this year, TOI, in an investigation, highlighted how bamboo poles fitted with electric wires were put up on the Odisha border to block the elephants’ path near Kharagpur’s Keshorekha forest. This forest is the last halt for jumbos in Bengal before they move towards Odisha’s Simlipal. At Pathrashole, another village on the border, the villagers had dug up a 10-feet deep trench to prevent the jumbos from moving into Odisha.
Reacting to the report, Hyderbad-based activist Diya Banerjee had filed an RTI seeking to know the state’s role on the issue. In response, the state home department, in the last week of July, had shot off a letter to the forest department asking it to look into the matter immediately. In the last five years, 25 jumbo deaths and more than 100 human deaths were reported from south Bengal.