The number of pachyderms has gone up from 27 to 45 in 10 years

A reported increase in elephant population in Alur and Sakleshpur taluks has put the focus again on man-animal conflict, and the demand for translocation of the pachyderms is growing louder.

When the people of neighbouring taluks raised the demand 10 years ago, the elephant population in Alur and Yeslur forest ranges was 27. Now, it has gone up to 45, according to rough estimates. “We have not conducted a scientific enumeration. But, our men on duty have observed an increase in elephant population over the years,” R.N. Lakshman, Deputy Conservator of Forests, told The Hindu.

The official said he had observed seven to eight elephant calves in the last two years.

“They are spread over four to five groups,” he said.

Instances of elephants damaging crops or entering human habitats are common in Alur and Sakleshpur taluks. People avoid venturing out in the evening and they get worried if their children are a little late while returning from schools.

As many as 35 people have died in elephant attacks in the last 10 years. Whenever village residents stage protests demanding a solution to the problem, the State government promises that the elephants will be relocated. As the issue is now in the Karnataka High Court, the Forest Department cannot go ahead till the court gives its approval. However, the department has started preparations for the mega exercise.

There is no guarantee that once all the trouble-making elephants are relocated, the people can heave a sigh of relief. A similar exercise in 2010 proved futile as two elephants returned to their original place within a few days.

Environmentalists say translocation is only a temporary measure and conservation of forests is the only permanent solution. “The government is not keen on conserving forests though they are aware that deforestation in the name of development projects is the reason for elephant menace,” Kishor Kumar, president of Malenadu Janapara Horata Vedike, said.

The government has sanctioned power projects in the forest areas of the Western Ghats forcing elephants to tread into human habitats. “The Elephant Task Force has also recommended against taking up projects in forest areas. The government should address this issue,” he added.