The human-elephant conflict has intensified in Sathyamangalam region as the number of crop raids has witnessed a sharp rise. In the last few weeks, the region saw more than 30 elephant raids that resulted in heavy economic loss to the farmers.

A farmer in a remote village in Thalamalai had even attempted suicide on Monday after elephants damaged his ragi field. It was said the farmer, Puttunathan (55) of Thottapuram village in Thalamalai hills resorted to the act after elephants raided the crops in his field frequently.

Attracted by the sugarcane and banana fields, elephants come out of their habitat and cause huge damage to the crops. The shortage of water in the forests due to poor rainfall also forced the elephants to raid the agricultural fields. The farmers in Bhavanisagar, Kadambur, Punjai Puliyampatti, Thalavadi and Thalamalai areas are the worst affected due to frequent raids. Elephants, according to District Forest Officer N. Satheesh, often come out of the forests primarily in search of water.

“We have created adequate water sources in the forests. But these sources were dry due to monsoon failure,” he said.

The changing agricultural practices near the boundary such as the cultivation of sugarcane and banana was also another reason for the increasing conflict, he added.

Though the Forest Department provides compensation for the crop loss, farmers in the region express serious concern over the conflict frequency. “Instead of providing compensation, the department should try to create adequate fodder and water sources inside the forests, preventing the elephants from raiding the crops permanently,” says V.P. Gunasekaran of Tamil Nadu Tribal Welfare Association.

Wildlife activists, however, claim that elephants do not raid crops due to lack of fodder in the forests. Loss of elephant corridors, destruction of wildlife habitat and increasing population are some of the reasons that lead to the conflict situation.

“Human-elephant conflict is one of the biggest challenges faced by the wildlife managers. We need to adopt a holistic approach involving all the stakeholders,” says Assistant Professor of wildlife biology B. Ramakrishnan.

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