Are the elephant corridors passing through Sullia taluk in Dakshina Kannada district into Wayanad in Kerala widening? Are the elephants that move from Pushpagiri to Wayanad showing tendencies of straying from their traditional corridors? These are some of the questions that have been confronting the Forest Department and the villagers. Due to deforestation, the elephant corridor has widened and the jumbo menace is severe in several areas of the district, especially in Sullia taluk.
However, when people started encroaching upon forest land and government projects too came up in forest land, the natural elephant corridors were affected and jumbos started to enter farm lands.
Last week a herd of elephants had strayed away from its traditional path and destroyed plantations.
Earlier, elephants were spotted in areas close to forests. However, the menace is now regular even in those areas which are closer to the town. There was no elephant menace in Mandekolu, Kolchar, Aletty, Harihara among other villages in Sullia taluk around 20 years ago. However, it has become common in these areas now.
Earlier, there was buffer land near the forest. But after people started to encroach upon the buffer land, the zone shrunk.
Though the Forest Department is striving to reduce the conflict through various projects like solar fencing and elephant-proof trenches among others, it has failed to meet the intention. Now the government is planning to erect iron fences using discarded railway tracks.
DFO K T Hanumanthappa said that the fencing will be done on the periphery of forests of Kodagu, Dakshina Kannada, Hassan and Tumakuru to prevent elephant menace. A total of `200 crore has been earmarked for the project. As a pilot project, this fence will first be installed at Nagarhole.
ACF Dinesh Kumar said that the breakage in elephant corridor has led to jumbos deviating from their actual route. The free movement of elephants is disturbed in areas where roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects have come up, he said.
“Lack of food and water in deep forests is also one of the reasons… As people in the district opt for banana, areca nut and coconut cultivation, elephants get attracted,” he said.