Forest Ministry releases guide to managing human-elephant conflict

Best practices across the country showcased

August 13, 2020 03:10 am | Updated 03:10 am IST - Kolkata

Monitoring pachyderms: An elephant being radio-collared for tracking in a Kerala forest.

Monitoring pachyderms: An elephant being radio-collared for tracking in a Kerala forest.

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has compiled the best practices of human-elephant conflict management in India.

“A variety of management strategies and practices has been developed and customised for implementing at different scales by the State Forest Departments for preventing and mitigating human-elephant conflict,” said the document released by the Ministry earlier this week to mark World Elephant Day (August 12).

The publication running over 40 pages presents a pictorial guide and also points out that though the majority of existing prevention strategies are driven by site-specific factors that offer short-term solutions, many interventions adopted have resulted in successfully removing elephants from human habitations. These best practices have been discussed under several categories such as retaining elephants in their natural habitats by creating water sources and management of forest fires.

The other best practices include elephant-proof trenches in Tamil Nadu, hanging fences and rubble walls in Karnataka, use of chili smoke in north Bengal and playing the sound of bees or carnivores in Assam. The document also talks about an elephant corridor initiative where 25.37 acres of private land was purchased at Edayarahalli-Doddasampige in Karnataka as part of conservation efforts.

Use of technology

The document details a process of individual identification and monitoring of elephants in south Bengal. Other ideas include sending SMS alerts to warn of elephant presence.

Ecologist Raman Sukumar of the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, welcomed the publication and said the best practices need to be evaluated.

“What we need is to narrow down the set of practices or methods that can be applied on a large scale,” Mr. Sukumar said.

The elephant expert recommended cost-benefit analysis for these policies and said that it should be done in context of the economic damage caused by elephants to crops.

Practices such as elephant-proof trenches should be discouraged in areas that receive more than 1,500 mm rainfall a year. “Hanging wire electric fences that produce electricity for milliseconds have given positive results. These practices have been tried in Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu,” Mr. Sukumar said.

The document also points out that India has the largest number of wild Asian Elephants, estimated at 29,964 according to the 2017 census by Project Elephant. The figure amounts to about 60% of the species’ global population.

“Over 500 humans are killed in encounters with elephants annually, and crops and property worth millions are also damaged. Many elephants are also killed in retaliation due to conflict,” the publication said.

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