Encouraged by germination and subsequent growth in bamboo plantations, Odisha’s Athagarh Forest Division has begun casting seed balls inside different reserve forest areas to enrich food stock for wild elephants.
The growth in bamboo plantation is expected to meet the needs of the elephants, which often stray out of the forests and raid human habitations.
Villagers who bear the brunt of the elephant attacks have come forward to prepare the bamboo seed balls and scatter them in 38 reserve forests under the Athagarh Forest Division.
A vigorous monsoon with copious rains has helped the villagers and forest department personnel to ensure that the seed balls have germinated and taken root.
“Bamboo shoots are relished by elephants. We are highly optimistic that it will meet the food requirement of wild elephants in their own habitats. They will not stray out of the forest in search of food,” said Sasmita Lenka, Athagarh Divisional Forest Officer.
For restoration of bamboo forests, a massive awareness campaign was launched in all the villages hit by elephant depredation. One quintal of bamboo seeds were brought from Jashipur in Mayurbhanj district. Making seed balls and scattering them in the forest is quite a time consuming task. However, the villagers joined the campaign hoping to ensure the bamboo plants will keep the elephants in the forests rather than straying into their villages.
“Elephants love chewing bamboo shoots. Once the shoots come out of the plants, the animal depredation in villages will definitely come down,” said Ms. Lenka.
Athagarh Forest Division is one of the worst-hit areas as far as man-elephant conflict is concerned. “Elephants frequently raid villages coming under Athagarh and Khuntuni range and damage standing paddy crops. Even fruit-bearing trees and vegetable plants are not spared. The situation becomes extremely volatile when any human gets killed by marauding elephant,” the DFO said.
Last year, the division had thrown seed balls using 950 kg of bamboo seeds inside the forest.
“The survival rate ranged between 50 and 60%. The man-elephant conflict is complex. No one has simple solution. We are looking at a long-term solution. We will keep on creating bamboo plantation inside forests,” said Ms. Lenka.