Thorny bamboo bushes to protect tea gardens from elephants (India)


Press Trust of India

Date Published
To reduce tea crop losses and prevent man-elephant conflict, four tea estates of Assam will soon be “bio-fenced” with thickets of thorny bamboos. 
Under a strategic partnership to prevent and manage man-elephant conflict, Apeejay Tea has tied up with the World Wildlife Fund to make a series of interventions and also calculate the amount of damage caused by the pachyderms.
Apeejay Tea’s managing director Ashok Bhargava said the route used by elephants in their Sessa Tea Estate to reach the other part of forest would be formalised as an elephant movement corridor. 
As forests have become fragmented, elephants use various areas under human habitation as corridors to travel to nearby forested areas during which conflict happens. 
The corridor would be hedged by a bio-fence of huge thickets of thorny bamboo plantations. 
“Electric fencing is costly and requires regular maintenance. Bio-fencing is cheap, natural, least intrusive and hardly needs any maintenance,” said Anupam Sarmah of WWF. 
The bamboo saplings would be raised in the four tea gardens of Seesa, Ghoirallie, Dhulapadung and Borjuli in Sonitpur district of Assam. 
During the three-year-project period they plan to raise 40,000 saplings of the bamboo which would be later on planted in parts of the tea garden. 
Under the project, they will also develop a matrix to calculate the quantum of loss that is usually borne by the tea estates on account of damage to property, including tea bushes and shade trees, infrastructure and injuries among residents. 
“Our yields are getting affected due to this but we do not know how much,” Bhargava said. 
Dipankar Ghose, Director (Species & Landscape) WWF-India, said on an average 400 people get killed in India each year in conflicts with elephants. 
Sonitpur is among the top three districts which has recorded 206 human and 131 elephant fatalities between 2006 and 2009. 
For wildlife conflict management, they would also use low-cost energiser fencing, use captive elephants called ‘Kunki’ to drive wild elephants away, use anti-depredation squads and elephant squads.