Jumbo efforts keep conflict at bay (West Midnapore, India)


Sujoy Khanra|, Times of India

Date Published

From unique awareness campaigns and SMS service to elephantdossiers and state-of-the-art vehicles to tackle conflict situation, the forest department’s bid to check man-animal conflict in south Bengal seems to have yielded a positive result.

Chief wildlife warden Pradeep Vyas said: “From April 1, 2016 to March 31 this year, 32 human deaths were reported in south Bengal compared to 71 in the last financial year.”

Last year, chief minister Mamata Banerjee had pulled up the foresters for their alleged failure to check man-elephant conflict in the region.

An SMS service launched last February in Bankura north division, from where most of the conflict cases are reported, informs villagers about presence of elephants in the area. “One has to give missed call to the toll-free number 9015181881 and in seconds, he will receive an SMS informing him about the presence of elephants in the division. The same info can be accessed from the website www.bankuraforest.in,” said chief conservator of forest (CCF, western circle) Niraj Singhal.

DFO Pinaki Mitra said under the earlier bulk SMS campaign, messages on jumbos’ locations were sent only to a handful of people like police, BDO and panchayat heads. “But the latest SMS service covers all villagers,” he added.

Recently, a unique conservation campaign, ‘Banchbo Mora Banchbe Ora’, of the wildlife wing of Bengal was also implemented by SHER (Society for Heritage and Ecological Researches) in seven forest divisions of south Bengal involving locals with the need to reverse negative attitude and foster a greater sense of empathy towards elephants.

SHER’s Joydip Kundu said: “Local communities were alerted through a number of simplified guidelines of dos and don’ts, like not to go for collecting mushrooms in the dark or defecation in the forest. Using a vehicle with customized audio-visual presentation, posters, leaflets, audio messages, public displays, street corner meetings and school shows, the project acted as a facilitation element to catalyse the rapid response activity for locals to mitigate conflict.”

Singhal said elephant movement coordination committees were formed with DFOs and ADFOs ensuring a smooth coordination between foresters while driving away jumbos from villages.