Man-animal conflict: Go traditional way to tackle elephants, says activist (India)


The Times of India

Date Published
Madurai: The only way to reduce the growing man-animal conflict with regard to elephants is to go back to our traditional ways of handling them besides controlling their population which is miscalculated in unscientific censuses, says the founder of Nature Trust, V Asokan.

The farmer and activist told TOI that the killing of four people by an elephant in Coimbatore was proof enough that humans were the reason for the increasing man-animal conflict. According to him, pachyderms were traditionally domesticated and lived close to humans. The trouble lay in abandoning our traditional outlook of elephants being animals used in agriculture and other labour-intensive works.

“The problems now arising out of deaths of elephants as well as elephant-related deaths owe much to our changed impression about elephants, like how the westerners perceive.”

Asokan who has his farm in Pethuparai in Kodaikanal, said that a recent census by the forest department on elephant population in the region had claimed that there were 19 elephants in the Kodaikanal range. “But, I am sure that there are not less than 60 because in Pethuparai alone we regularly sight a herd of about 12 elephants,” he said. “The unscientific way in which the census is carried out is the reason why these animal censuses are not accurate. It is not easy for even an expert to tell one elephant from another, so unless tags and GPS-tracking devices are used to identify them the census would not reveal the accurate numbers,” he said.

He said that the elephant’s physique itself was proof that it was not meant to live in hilly terrains and they usually inhabited the foothills that habour forests. These animals thrive on the trees in the forest and now as the forests have been drastically reduced they were entering the human habitats. The northern range of Palani hills which had a lot of elephants lacked trees, while the southern slope of the hills which did not have elephants had a rich green cover.

The elephant population needed to be checked and this could be done by letting temples that had the facilities to adopt calves.

“Thailand is a nation which has a much larger elephant population, but most of them are under private ownership and man-animal conflicts are less,” he said.

Problems related to elephants were bound to increase in the near future due to the prevailing drought conditions and there was an urgent need to act to protect both man and animal. He said that the wild life act allowed the shooting of wild animals in defence of oneself.

The farmers in Kodaikanal were even ready to do so to protect their crops and life. Hence there was a need to look at this problem in a new perspective, he said.