Jumbos not welcome guests for farmers around the woods (Karnataka, India)


Rohith BR, The Times of India

Date Published

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BANDIPUR NATIONAL PARK: The first two days of the 2017 elephant census had been an underwhelming affair for Naveen BN, a techie from bengaluru who volunteered for the exercise at Bandipur National Park. Naveen, who had expected to stumble upon a large herd of elephants in the course of his peregrinations through the forest, had been left disappointed, not having sighted even a single tusker on the first two days. However, on Friday – the last day of the census – his disappointment gave way to elation, when he spotted a herd of five elephants, which included a calf during the waterhole count.

As part of the waterhole count conducted on the last day of the census, volunteers and resource personnel sit near a water hole, waiting for the elephants to assemble at the spot. While the sight of an elephant herd was a source of great delight for volunteers, Madappa M, a farmer of Hosa Birwalu village in HD Kote taluk, less than a kilometre from the park, watched them pass with trepidation. Madappa and members of his family fervently hope not to see any elephants, particularly near their fields where they have sown cotton.

Madappa said that the elephants trampled on the crops within two months of the seeds being sown. “Elephants invading our fields is not new to us. But the problem has become serious over the years. They used to come into the fields once in a while, and feed on crops such as paddy and sugarcane. Lately, they don’t spare any crops,” Madappa added. Farmers living and working in villages on the periphery of Bandipur National Park share Madappa’s concerns. As the three-day census operation came to an end on Friday, the threat that the tuskers posed to the livelihood of the farmers gave the volunteers much to ponder about. Tackling the human elephant conflict has become a huge challenge for the forest department.

While farmers in HD Kote taluk have traditionally cultivated paddy and sugarcane, they have started growing crops such as tomato, chilly, cauliflower and cotton in the recent years.

Mallesha N of Badagalapura, another village lying close to the forest boundary, has tried several measures – from erecting a solar fence to changing the crop pattern –  to keep elephants at bay. Blaming the forest department for its failure to restrict elephant movement, he said,”They don’t allow us to graze our cattle inside the forest. They better keep the wild animals inside the woods.” 

Assistant conservator of forests for Hediyala sub-division that falls under Bandipur, Paramesh hoped that the forest department would be able to use the census data to combat the problem.”We’re doing our best now. Trenches have been dug near the boundary, and night patrolling too has increased. We have also ensured farmers are compensated quickly for the crop loss. We’re holding community meetings to increase awareness among villagers on the importance of wildlife,” he added.