Taking elephants out of conflict zones shows no positive effect (India)


The Hindu

Date Published

In December last, over 100 forest department personnel, 30 veterinarians, five trained elephants and their mahouts conducted a mega exercise in the forests of Nelamangala, off Tumakuru Road.

The mission: to capture eight wild elephants which were part of a herd that had found itself in conflict situations with humans on the stretch between Bannerghatta National Park and Tumakuru.

The clashes had resulted in farmers in this tract suffering crop losses and property damage, in addition to human deaths every now and then. A few elephants also died after they were injured or electrocuted in the conflict zone.

After the forest department managed to capture and relocate two elephants to start with, villagers in the conflict zone had heaved a sigh of relief. However, within a few days, a 22-year-old man was trampled to death by an elephant near Nelamangala forest range. The forest department continued its capture operation and caught another elephant. At least five elephants have been removed from this area so far.

However, the removal of elephants seems not to have addressed the problem as within five months of the operation, two more human casualties were reported from the conflict zone on Sunday .

A wildlife expert said on condition of anonymity, that the capture operation by the forest department in December split the herd of male elephants, numbering 12 to 15. “As a result, individual elephants are spread over different parts of the conflict zone and are coming in conflict with humans every now and then. Removal of elephants may not be the solution. The fragmented elephant corridors needs to be re inked and strong barriers in the orm of trenches and solar fencing need to be put in place to avoid elephants entering human habitats,” he added.

Another wildlife expert said a ew years ago, a similar operation was conducted at Alur in Hassan district, during which around 25 elephants were captured and relocated. “However, the problem of conflict hasn’t lessened there as new elephants have occupied the space,” he added.

A senior official from the forest department said, “We will hold a meeting on human-elephant con licts in the region and look for resh solutions.”

It may be recalled that villagers in Bengaluru Rural, Ramanagara and Tumakuru districts have staged several protests because of the crop losses they suffered due to elephants ruining their fields.For the jumbos too, the region has become increasingly dangerous, with three of them found dead within 15 days in December.

Times view

From building different types of hurdles to physically removing elephants from conflict zones, there isn’t a short-term measure that the authorities haven’t tried. But the elephant’s conflict is with mankind, especially during the harsh summer months when they leave their habitats in search of water and food. With another impending elephant survey, the authorities must consider long-term solutions, including conservation measures that can help keep jumbos in their terrain, and restrict human activity in known elephant territory. Efforts must also be made to create awareness among people bordering conflict zones, equip them to deal with the animals better and put in place mechanisms of quick response from forest officials.