CHENNAI: Studying the reasons and possible mitigation options for human-elephant conflicts in Sathyamangalam forest in West Tamil Nadu, wildlife experts here have identified nine conflict hotspots where over 72 per cent of crops had been damaged by elephants the last year.
Experts from the Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) began their survey a few months ago and studied 26 villages around Velamandi reserve forest area near Sathyamangalam. Of these, frequent conflicts were reported from nine villages along the fringes of the forest area. Out of the 124 damages reported in the region, 89 incidents of elephants raiding farmlands were reported from these nine hotspots. Among the nine villages, Kallipatti, Nalroad and Solabanur villages were the worst hit. The damages were often susbstantial, leaving the farmers with no money to feed their families.
Experts added that the elephants went on a rampage mostly from February to June. However, to get a better picture, the wildlife scientists will spend another year at the forest studying the spatial landscapes, animal movements and recording any repetition in their patterns. “What if they don’t come to the farmlands this time next year? We need to take account of at least two years before deciding on the next course of action,” said Anandkumar, a wildlife scientist from NCF.
Velamandi reserve forest is spread across 130 sqkm that has about 30,000 villagers living around it. Most of these villagers are subsistence farmers who grow banana, jasmine, tobacco and other crops that are sold during festivals that fall later in the year. However, the constant raids by elephants have left farmers with very little.
“From digging trenches, making loud noise including bursting crackers, parking tractors in front of the farms, farmers are doing everything they can to protect their lands. However it doesn’t seem enough,” he said.