Rapid response to man-animal conflict (Kolkata, India)


Times of India

Date Published

In order to reduce man-animal conflict and rescue animal or man
trapped in conflict, the forest department is raising a rapid response
team (RRT). “It is a rapid response team that would be equipped with
forest official, personnel with animal rescue training and equipment,
veterinary surgeons and a smart vehicle with rotating search lights
fitted atop it. Each vehicle costs Rs 20 lakh. Five such teams will be
stationed at various parts of the state. While two teams will be
stationed in north Bengal, two will take care of south Bengal and one
will be used in Kolkata. We are also launching a dedicated toll free
number for alerting this force,” said forest minister Binay Krishna
Burman in the assembly.

“In Kolkata, we often receive complaints about sudden intrusion of
wild animals into house. It is because of the loss habitat. People
often kill the animals out of fear or do act which leave the beast
further scared and aggressive. This team will handle such situation
and rescue the wild animals and release it to an area conducive for
its survival,” he added.

The RRT will be equipped with arms to tranquillise all animals, even
big animals like rhinos and Indian gaurs. Besides, the state
government is enhancing the team called ‘Airavat’ (mythical war
elephant and the pet of Lord Indra) that is dedicated to reduce
man-elephant conflict. Only four Airavat teams were there in Bankura
and Purulia regions. Its success led forest department to increase the
number from four to eight. “Now, Airavat will be deployed in north
Bengal as well,” said Burman.

Airavat, which is equipped with hooter and public address system will
be able to follow a herd of elephants and restrict it from destroying
crops in the field. “When elephant herd moves, people must be
peaceful. But they did the opposite by panicking. This led elephant to
be scared and aggressive. The Airavat rushed to the spot fast to
salvage the situation and restrict the elephant from destroying crops.
Because of Airavat, the man-elephant conflict has come down
substantially. The forest department now updates every person entering
an elephant corridor with exact number of elephants in the zone with

Forest department officers blamed the humans for the conflict. “First,
humans have destroyed their home. Now, people try to hurt them when
they come to the villages for food. If the villagers don’t panic and
keep calm, we can easily channelise them out of human land using the
new vehicle. But, people raise a hue and cry and try to trap the
elephants, which makes them more aggressive,” he said.

Both QRT and Airavat vehicles

· 100 LED bulb search light

· Generator

· Water container

· Man-pack for wireless communication with the control room

· Beat officer, Ranger and veterinary surgeon, patawala (an elephant
behavior expert)