Sathyamangalam has witnessed many instances of elephants damaging crops

In a bid to avert man-elephant conflicts that have, of late, become quite frequent in Sathyamangalam block in Erode district, the Forest Department is working out a management plan to prevent the elephants from straying into human habitations and farms.

The block witnessed a rise in the number of conflicts recently as herds of elephants, attracted by the green-covered farms located adjacent to the forests, headed towards the fields and caused huge damage to the crops.

Forest officials say that the disturbance caused to the elephant corridors and indiscriminate farming operations on the forest fringes are the major reasons for the elephants to foray into human habitations and farms.

Crops such as sugarcane, banana and maize are grown extensively on the lands adjacent to the forests.

A number of borewells have been sunk leading to the depletion of ground water level in forests. This in turn has led to the early withering of trees, driving elephants out of their habitats, officials explain.

“We are conducting a detailed study on the growing man-animal conflicts and working out a management plan,” Conservator of Forests, Erode Circle, D. Arun told The Hindu.

The department will consider digging more elephant-proof trenches, solar fencing and creation of more water sources in different parts of the jungle as a part of the management plan, he says.

“We have taken steps to identify the places where the elephants frequently cross into human habitations and farms. Once identified, we will work out a plan to dig elephant-proof trenches or install solar fencing in these places,” Sathyamangalam District Forest Officer N. Satheesh says.

The Sathyamangalam division currently has elephant-proof trenches in a few places. Besides digging trenches, the department has also taken steps to create more water sources inside the jungles, that will help prevent the jumbos from straying. Percolation ponds, artificial water tanks and check dams had been constructed in many places.

A few more ponds will come up this year, officials say.

“The improvement of water sources and vegetation inside the forests will ensure benefit in the long term,” Mr. Satheesh points out.

Mr. Arun says the department also plans to remove the encroachments on the forest fringes. “A few persons had encroached upon the forest lands in elephant corridor and started cultivating crops. This was a major reason that led to the increase in the man-animal conflicts. We will take steps to remove the encroachments,” he adds.

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