As man-elephant conflicts are on the increase in Meghalaya, the state government has decided to create another elephant reserve in an effort to minimise the incidents.

“On an average, four to five people are killed in the state by elephants every year apart from their attacks on humans, their property and crop land. The man-elephant conflict in the state is quite intense,” Principal Chief Conservator of Forests V.K. Nautiyal said.

Of the total 22,000 sq km geographical area of the state, the forest cover is 15,657 sq km. But unlike in other states which have well-demarcated forest areas and reserves, most of the forested areas are not under the direct control of the state government, Mr. Nautiyal said.

Only 1,027.20 square km are under the control of the State Forest Department constituting only 4.58 per cent of the total geographical area of the state and 6.56 per cent of the total forest area of the state.

The remaining area is either private or under the indirect control and management of the Autonomous District Councils.

“The situation here is different. These private forest areas are interspersed with human habitations and crop land.

This leads to frequent man-elephant conflicts in the zones,” Mr. Nautiyal said.

According to the latest elephant census done in 2008, the state is left with just 1,811 of the gentle giants.

Most of the pachyderm population is concentrated in the plains of South Garo Hills, West Garo Hills, West Khasi Hills and Ri Bhoi district.

The forest department is in the process of declaring another forest area as an elephant reserve.

One elephant reserve already exists in the Garo hills belt.

“A project is being conceived to declare a forest area in the northern part of Ri Bhoi and West Khasi Hills districts bordering Assam as an elephant reserve. An eco-compatible development scheme will be proposed for the area,” Nautiyal said.

The department will try to confine the elephant population in the area and propagate crops not liked by the elephants, he said.

Besides, an extensive awareness programme is being undertaken to minimize the conflict situation.

“People tend to attack the elephants with fatal weapons, giving the animal festering wounds which make them ferocious.

This insensitivity among the people should be removed,” the PCCF said.

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