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Multi-pronged strategy need of the hour, says elephant expert

Staff Correspondent
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‘Clear policy, scientific approach and monitoring can help ease conflict’

Addressing it scientifically:According to Asian elephant expert Ajay A. Desai, factors influencing human-elephant conflict, such as loss or fragmentation of habitat, need to be addressed.— File PHOTO: M.A. SRIRAM
Addressing it scientifically:According to Asian elephant expert Ajay A. Desai, factors influencing human-elephant conflict, such as loss or fragmentation of habitat, need to be addressed.— File PHOTO: M.A. SRIRAM

The absence of a clear policy, a scientific approach and monitoring are among the reasons the human-elephant conflict (HEC) has not been successfully addressed, Asian elephant expert Ajay A. Desai has said. The root causes for the conflict have not been addressed while improper methods are only adding to the failure, he observed.

Addressing the issue at Conservation Speak on Tuesday, a monthly programme at the Mysore zoo here, Mr. Desai, who has been studying the Asian elephants for over three decades, stressed the need for a national policy and financial support.

He said the factors influencing HEC, such as habitat loss and habitat fragmentation, need to be addressed, also while preventing the creation of new conflict situations through population management, community development, etc. “Containing residual problems and effective and sustained implementation of measures are necessary,” Mr. Desai said, adding that compensation was required in cases of HEC as some conflict would always exist.

Exceptions

Not all elephants raid crops, Mr. Desai said, citing the case of a tusker that was radio-collared and studied by him. The animal, he said, did not raid crops despite being very close to agricultural fields for over four months. Other studies done in India and Sri Lanka supported the argument that not all elephants destroy crops, he stated.

About 20 to 25 per cent of the elephant population of the country lived in Karnataka, he said. Loss, fragmentation and degradation of habitat as well as population increase (in humans and elephants) were the reasons contributing to the increasing conflict.

“Breaking the elephant habitat for railway lines, roads or canals can have severe impact. The implications could be huge, and the people living closer to such fragmented habitats pay a heavy price,” Mr. Desai said.

Cattle grazing, wood collection for fuel and small-scale timber extraction were contributing to habitat degradation. Even the high density of elephants can have an adverse impact on their habitat, he added.

Multiple reasons

Observing that there were multiple reasons for the human-elephant conflict, Mr. Desai said multiple approaches were required to address the problem.

Ajai Mishra, Director, Project Elephant, said the human-elephant conflict had declined in the Malavalli area from where two elephants had strayed into Mysore city two years ago.

“The habitat in the area was fragmented due to hydel power projects, etc. Even the rise in tourism in the area, especially around the waterfalls, was a reason. The factors causing disturbances are being addressed and the department has recommended that there would be no more hydel projects in the area,” he said.

He said understanding the problem was important in addressing the human-elephant conflict.

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