Experts to help tackle man-elephant conflict near border

“Need to clear encroachments inside Goalpara forest division”

GUWAHATI: The Assam forest department will take the help of experts in mitigating human-elephant conflict along the Meghalaya border even as the root of the problem lies in the growing encroachment inside Goalpara forest division.

A tusk-less male elephant, suspected to be one of the 50 migratory elephants from Garo Hills and referred to by some “terrorized” residents as “Laden”, has trampled to death at least six persons to death in five months.

“We have been on round-the-clock vigil for several weeks now and have tried our best to cordon off and keep this solitary elephant within the reserve forest. Now we will consult and take suggestions from experts – Kaushik Baruah and Kushal Kumar Sarma – who will be in Dhupdhara by Tuesday,” Goalpara divisional forest officer, A. Goswami told The Shillong Times on Thursday.

A woman was injured on Thursday morning after she came in contact with an elephant at Ganeshjuli in the Dhupdhara area of Goalpara district.

“In all probability, this is same elephant (Laden) that has adapted well to the forest environment. The woman had ventured into the elephant’s territory this morning when the animal was returning to the wilds this morning. This apparently led to the conflict. According to the ranger, she has a fractured leg and is under treatment,” Goswami said.

“The elephant therefore should be left to itself inside the forest. But despite sustained awareness programmes from the department’s side, people refuse to learn and venture into the wilds. It is here the conflict starts,” the DFO said.

There are 56 reserved forests and 47 proposed reserved forests covering an area of 361 sq km under Goalpara forest division. The forest division comprises Rangjuli, Krishnai and Goalpara ranges.

Rising human encroachments in the reserve forests under the division have compounded this conflict. Corridor blocks and lack of access to food have also led the elephants to target cropland, granaries and even mid-day meal schools.

Dilip Nath, a wildlife activist and a member of Aranya Surakhya Samittee from Udalguri district meanwhile had visited Dhupdhara earlier this week to have a first-hand feel of the situation.

“This was my first visit to the area under Dhupdhara beat and from what I could gauge it is the people who are at fault and not the other way round. Most of them venture out in an inebriated state and invite danger. The elephant they refer to as ‘Laden’ is actually quite gentle as I could locate him consuming jackfruit from a tree at night. I had pointed a torchlight at the elephant and all it did was to raise its trunk subtly,” Nath said.

He further said that even if the elephant was located, tranquilising and retrieving it from the forest and carrying it to the point of captivity might be a difficult proposition.

“I had a talk with the forest minister and the principal conservator of forests and a public meeting will be held very shortly to discuss the issue of encroachments and alcoholism among the villagers, which have to be addressed at the earliest,” Nath said.


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