State not ready to tackle shifting elephant corridors (India)


By Dhritiman Ray, Times of India

Date Published
RANCHI: The elephant that killed two persons in Ranchi on Wednesday retreated to the jungles of Khunti on Thursday but left in its trail questions about the state’s preparedness to check the growing man-animal conflict in Jharkhand’s urban settlements. 

The 1,500 jumbos living in the 1,200sgkm jungles of Palamu Tiger Reserve and Betla National Park, which covers Dalma wildlife sanctuary and Saranda forest, are gradually straying from their usual transit routes through the identified elephant corridors in the state, say wildlife officials. The herds usually travel to the jungles of Chhattisgarh, Odisha and West Bengal along elephant transit paths for want of food. 

“It is because of the fragmentation of their habitat,” said Rajiv Ranjan, wildlife warden of Ranchi range. 

The state’s development overdrive and mining endeavours have led to reduction in green cover. This, coupled with shortage of food, has led to path deviations, said Ranjan. 

The deviation in routes is fast changing elephant corridors. In 2006, the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) identified 12 corridors in Jharkhand, which along with its three bordering states, fall under the central zone. The change, state wildlife officials say, has compelled WTI to undertake another survey only recently to map the new movement areas, based on the human-elephant conflict data. 

In 2013, a bull elephant camped close to the Deepatoli army base. In the same year, a herd damaged houses and injured people in Latehar, which falls outside the identified corridors, wildlife officials say. Earlier this year, a lone tusker strayed from Dalma and travelled 500 km east to Bangladesh’s Rajshahi district. 

Despite the growing instances of straying and loss of life and property, the wildlife department lacks specialized teams to handle such occurrences, admits Pradeep Kumar, chief wildlife warden in the state. 

The department’s plans to commission five quick response teams — which will be armed with tranquilizer guns and satellite tracking equipment — to Jamshedpur, Bokaro, Dumka, Daltonganj and Ranchi remains on paper since 2006. Asked how much more time is required to deploy the teams, Kumar said, “There is no time frame. We are trying to speed up the process.”