Man-animal conflict a jumbo challenge for Karnataka (India)


Meera Bhardwaj, New Indian Express

Date Published


See photos of injured tusker.
Incidents of man-elephant conflict have become common in Karnataka with habitat loss and destruction of elephant corridors, say wildlife experts. The latest incident involves an injured wild tusker which has got stuck in the backwaters of Manchanabele. Efforts are on to rescue it.

This is not the first time Karnataka is seeing conflict incidents involving elephants. Almost every month, Bengaluru Rural, Tumakuru, Hassan, Kodagu and Chikkamagaluru districts have been reporting cases where either people have been killed, or injured, and the animal driven away by panic-stricken villagers and, in the process, seriously injuring the gentle animal.

Wildlife conservationist G Veeresh says, “In the elephant Sidda’s case, he may have strayed into the village for several reasons. A tusker never stays in a herd for a long period. It is a solitary, dominating animal and only comes into a herd during mating time. Apart from this, when he came out of the herd and strayed into Uddandahalli, this village may have been part of an elephant corridor. It is not the animal’s fault that it strayed into this village. The elephant is following the route and path shown by its ancestors. But now these are occupied by agricultural lands and human settlements.”

He says: “Instead of giving some time to straying elephants and waiting for forest officials to take action, most villagers act on their own by driving away the animals using crackers, throwing stones and setting fires. This not only creates panic among animals, but in the process, both man and animal are injured or killed.”

When elephants raid crops, farmers, villagers and, many a times, poachers use muzzle-loader guns to fire at them.

“These guns are filled with gunpowder and an assortment of materials like cycle chain balls, blade pieces and small iron pieces that hurt the elephants seriously, creating small and many pellet wounds on the body. If left untreated, they lead to infections and serious complications,” adds Veeresh.

Rescue efforts

Wildlife experts say more the delay in Sidda’s rescue efforts, more the complications. For one, the amount of tranquillisation to be injected into the animal needs to be estimated based on its body weight and age.

Dr Manilal Valliyate, Director of Veterinary Affairs, PeTA India, told Express that as it was already very late, the animal should be tranquillised and rescued immediately.

“There is no point in waiting. The water is helping the animal, but how long can this animal sustain with an injured forelimb and other body injuries? It needs correct clinical diagnosis and treatment after its rescue,” he adds.

Dr Valliyate advises, “The doctors and experts should make a fast assessment as it has sustained various kinds of injuries. Even if the head of the animal is visible, one can make a rough estimate of the weight of the animal and administer the tranquilliser. And being in water for such a long time, it may lead to serious health complications as open wounds lead to swelling, inflammation, infections and septicemia.

“Since the animal is not eating properly and such a big herbivorous animal grazes for 16-18 hours a day, its nutritional requirements are large. The food provided in such a situation is not enough and may lead to weakness and other health problems.”

No rapid response force

Wildlife experts say it’s high time Karnataka and the country too had  emergency rescue forces for animals comprising veterinarians and wildlife trained manpower and equipped with modern equipment like cranes. “In Africa, they have a permanent animal rescue force with long cranes and emergency personnel on  call 24 hours. Why can’t Karnataka make a beginning with so many cases of leopards, bears, elephants and tigers caught in conflict situations especially in the last two decades,” says an expert.