|Jumbo crossing. Calicut- Kollegal NH at Muthangn. www.deccanchronicle.com|
|human - elephant conflict, India. newsblaze.com|
|Trained elephants have been part of Indian social and religious culture as they are closely associated with temples rituals, etc. It is also widely used in lumber industries based in Kerala, Assam and other states. Important temples of Kerala and Tamil Nadu have an elephant or more than one and many of these elephants are donated to the temples by the devotees. They are mostly well behaved and have been trained to accept donation and then bless the devotees by putting their trunk mildly on their head. Besides temple elephants carry the deity in the procession during festival times. In Kerala, in most of the festivals one will not miss to see a few richly caparisoned elephants, with bells around their neck, etc as part of the procession. For the children and others it is a great entertainment, watching a huge animal obeying orders from the Mahout who can be crushed to death by him in a jiff.|
|The trench being dug to prevent entry of elephants www.thehindu.com|
Above image: Forest officials inspecting the trench being dug to prevent entry of elephants into villages, in Koundinya wildlife sanctuary near V. Kota in Chittoor distric, Andhra
However, it is reported, in states like Kerala, there has been an alarming rise of man-elephant conflicts primarily because of maltreatment of the big animals by the irresponsible Mahouts. If the Mahouts have a drinking problem, public safety will be in jeopardy. In a span of 12 years between 1998 and 2010 in Kerala, 212 people were killed, mostly Mahouts because the elephants could not take any more of brutality. Fatal mishaps have become threat to public life.
In many states, human habitats near wooded areas have become scenes of increasing human-elephant conflicts. People living in the fringe areas of forests are in a state of constant fear and threats for several years and many get killed by wild elephants for different reasons. Between 2014 and 2015 as many as 413 people and 72 elephants died, because such human-elephant conflicts are propelled by population growth, expansion of agriculture lands and urban areas which in turn impact on the animal habitats which show sings of shrinking as days go by without a viable solution in sight. Shrinking habitats, loss of food, etc are the main reasons that force the animals to move out of their home in search of food, etc. West Bengal reported the highest number of death at 89, followed by Assam at 54 a few years ago.
|Solar fencing to deter elphants, tamil nadu.www.indiamart.com|
|Chilliy and elephant. arbroath.blogspot.com|
In the case of Assam in NE India, during the annual Brahmaputra river flooding (June -July), the confrontation between elephants and humans escalates to a dangerous level. For example Kaziranga National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site about 55 miles away, and between a forested hill and the Nambor-Doigurung Wildlife Sanctuary during the floods, more than 1800 elephants move out of the park, in search of food as the park becomes drenched during the monsoon season. The elephants move along certain corridors in herds and the villages, in their line of path take the fury when the rampaging elephants are hungry, looking for something to crush and munch..
The wild Trust of India (WTI) who are trying to resolve this menacing problem caused by wild elephants is working hard to secure such elephant corridors, along which the pachyderms move, in Assam, Megalaya, Kerala and Karnataka to reduce the threats and damages by way of relocation of villages, community participation, land purchase, early warning of elephant raids, etc. Relocation of an entire village is a difficult task and in some places it does work well. In the next decade their target is 100 elephant corridors across India to reduce the conflict between pachyderms and people.
In the agricultural areas near the forests, the farmers across India face similar threats. Elephants barge into the farm lands and sometimes into the villages and leave behind a trail of chaos, destruction and damages. Crop losses run into crores of rupees. Farm lands are raided by elephants, not withstanding several safe guards followed by the farm owners such as elephant prevention trenches (EPT), chilly fences, solar powered electric fences with warning system, etc. In Kerala, farmers follow a different, but effective method. They raise beehives on their properties to scare the raiding elephants. In villages around Madukkari, many elephnts know how to get past the solar fence. Sounding of siren near Kittampalayam village would warn the owner that his farm was being raided by the elephants to feast on the mouth-watering bnanas!!
|West Dean College|
Many small towns in Tamil Nadu close to the wild animal habitats witness the human - elephant conflict, as in other states. Among the town in Tamil Nadu which has well-known elephant sanctuaries, the Coimbatore Forest Division covering 693 sq. km area, has the highest incidence of human-elephant conflict in this state and in the last 20 years 100 people lost their lives on account of elephant raids and 24 elephants were electrocuted.
Besides facing depredation of their crops by the elephants, people frequently face threats from smaller animals like wild boars and ungulates and occasionally leopards. Consequently ever increasing number of people are getting nightmares and restless about elephants and other wild animals trespassing their agricultural lands and getting ever closer to them and their families. It means loss of income, struggle to go to work on their farms.
|Distribution of elephants in southern India ces.iisc.ernet.in|
The Project Elephant, the Ministry of Environment and Forests' elephant-affairs body observed that there are two kinds of land allotted for elephants. National park and sanctuary constitute 22% of elephant territory that gets better protection. The rest forms another kind that includes reserve lands, revenue lands and private forests. These are highly exploited lands and majority of elephants live in these useless areas. In many states the loss of elephant habitat is very much. In Assam it is way high - 65% since 1972. Elephants that migrate to different places in the summer and in the winter choose their home range based on quality of the terrain, forage and plenty of water. They are quite sensitive to their food requirements. If the number of herds swells and if the habitat is not sustainable, they lose their home but try to stay very much there but raid the neighboring places every now and then for additional food, etc when they have pangs of hunger. Each elephant needs at least 230 plus kg plus of food a day. To make up the shortage, they risk crossing the high ways, human settlements, water bodies, etc., to reach for crops and grains. An elephant may live up to 50 years, when their habitat shrinks, they try to stay there and adjust to a new situation. They know where to and when to look for food and they learn the survival instinct since young. Their life is dependent on their habitat and try to take risk, covering highways and train tracks to cover their home range. If there are human settlements in their home range, they use the cover of darkness to get the food and water. The extent of their home range is determined by the availability of water and food. This frequently results in their raiding nearby farms. Yet another problem is poaching. As some poachers kill them for tusks, they are stressed when they reach the villages for food that results in confrontation with humans who equally need their grains for food and income. The elephant- human conflict is artificially created by the humans for their selfish needs. The end result is both elephants and human beings are suffering.
In the State of Meghalaya in NE India the villagers of Dumurkota have altogether different problems that may sound funny. Here the pachyderms raid the villages and shops for different reasons. They are not looking for fresh food and vegetables. Then, what are they up to? They are looking for an alcoholic brew to feel high or perhaps, to burp up their frustration. How come they have picked this social habit of humans? These villagers have a tradition to enjoy and relax over a glass of local country brew called Mahua
(brew made from Mahua plants)
|drunk elephant with two drunks. www.wpclipart.com|
|Feeling high, drunk elephant after a few barrels of Mahua. www.huffingtonpost.com|