Conflict situations arise due to elephants straying out of the forests in search of fodder and water

The Forest Department has begun efforts, in coordination with Horticulture Department, to source water from its 30-acre farm in Anaikatti to refill a water trough with a capacity of 20,000 litres. The water source was constructed in Jambukandi area by the Forest Department.

The Forest Department has embarked on an initiative to raise fodder banks at eight locations and construction of water troughs in seven locations in six ranges spread over an area of 690 sq km. The objective was to reduce instances of human-animal conflict as a majority of the conflict situations arose due to elephants straying out of the forests in search of fodder and water or due to blocks in their migratory corridor.

District Forest Officer V. Thirunavukkarasu said majority of these works were started on time. Despite the monsoon failure and through local water resources, the fodder banks had shown considerable results. The 250 hectare land was expected to have adequate fodder when the peak summer season sets in. Now, the department had initiated steps with the Horticulture Department to get water from the farm of the Horticulture Department in Anaikatti for a newly created water trough in Jambukandi area.

Once water was made available in the trough and when the fodder banks started catering to the needs of the pachyderms, conflicts were likely to come down in Anaikatti, Chinna Thadagam, Naickenpalayam and Periyanaickenpalayam areas to a considerable extent, Mr. Thirunavukkarasu said.

Locations for these fodder banks and water troughs were identified based on the mapping done on the previous incidents of conflict. More than 250 km of forest boundary was found to witness conflicts of the total of 315 km forest boundary and there were 28 conflict prone villages along the reserve forest boundary. On the other hand, farmers were also being sensitised to the need to change the cropping pattern at least in fringe areas by avoiding crops such as sugarcane, plantain and maize, that are most sought after by elephants.

In addition to prevent conflicts, the department had also mooted a comprehensive proposal to take up Elephant Proof Trenches (EPTs). Coimbatore, as on date, has 103 km of EPT and the objective was to increase the EPT to 250 km. Ultimately, the forest boundary would be sealed with EPTs for the whole 315 km stretch.

The impetus now was more on EPT since elephants had learnt to overcome the challenge posed by solar electric fencing, he said. With regard to obstructions in the migratory path, Mr.Thirunavukkarasu said the department and the Government were aware of the issues and already, efforts were on to initiate remedial measures.

In the entire district, more than the static population of elephants, the migratory population was more with elephants from Kerala using the Palakkad – Walayar – Karadimadai and Iruttuppalam section. Elephants from Kerala came from Mannarkad division up to Siruvani and Narasipuram, while animals from Silent Valley travelled up to Karamadai and Thadagam areas. Elephants from the lower reaches of Nilgiris i.e., the North division travelled up to Kallar and Mettupalayam and some times, up to even Karamadai.

The last and sixth travel route of pachyderms was from Sathyamangalam and Bhavanisgar forests up to Sirumugai and Mettupalayam and elephants visited these places even from Thengumarahada and Mudumalai.

Already, an elephant corridor had been restored in the Nilgiris while efforts were on to restore the Kallar – Jakkanari Corridor. Officials pointed out that right from the Kerala border, there were 20 obstructions to elephant movement in the form of railway lines, a quarry, number of educational institutions, temples, religious centres, frequently used roads, ashrams, police establishments, research centres and brick kilns.