A meeting between forest personnel and farmers was held on Wednesday at Kalakkad – Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve’s Kalakkad Division to find a solution for intrusion of elephants into agricultural fields.
Since the elephants are known to exhibit high fidelity to their home ranges and the migrating routes that they use traditionally, the land transformation wherein ‘alien species’ like eucalyptus is grown in areas where food for elephant is available abundantly and obstructions created on their migratory routes in the form of constructions lead to elephant-human conflicts. When the population of pachyderm increases due to conservation, the conflict increases manifold, particularly during migratory season.
According to forest personnel, the elephants prefer shrubs during monsoon as they could easily get food. When the ‘food base’ shrinks, they tend to enter the ranches where farmers have cultivate paddy, vegetables, banana, coconut and cashew.
“It’s happening every year at Singampatti, Manimuthar, the stretch between Kalakkad and Cheranmahadevi, South Veeravanallur, Vadakarai, Padmaneri, Tirukkurungudi, Malaiyadipudur, Nambikovil and the areas west of Valliyoor, all under the KMTR jurisdiction. When the elephants cannot find their food, they enter the ranches, mostly between 10 p.m. and 12 midnight, where they damage paddy, coconut, banana etc,” said K. Muruganantham, Deputy Director of KMTR’s Kalakkad Division.
Farmers having ranches between Kadayam and Sivagiri face a similar problem throughout the year as trenches dug along the foothills and solar fences have failed to serve the purpose. He said farmers had taken steps to prevent the invasion of elephants into their lands by erecting fences using different materials. “While 32.80 per cent of them have erected thorny fences, 14.20 per cent have raised solar fence and 7.10 per cent have barbed wire or fishnet fence. Over 38 per cent of farmers whose farms are close to the Western Ghats have not erected any fence,” he said.
Farmers said that the forest department should introduce modern scientific methods to drive away elephants to minimise crop damage.
The meeting decided to form a network of farmers and forest personnel to closely follow the movement of elephants along the conflict zones so as to take immediate steps to chase them back into the forest. The farmers were urged to allow growth of shrubs, the much-desired food of elephants, so that they would be attracted by the shrubs while leaving the farms.