Translocation to allay people’s fears

Thirty trouble-making elephants in Alur and Sakleshpur taluks will be shifted to elephants camps of Forest Department. —File photo: Prakash Hassan

Thirty trouble-making elephants in Alur and Sakleshpur taluks will be shifted to elephants camps of Forest Department. —File photo: Prakash Hassan  

Residents of villages in Alur and Sakleshpur taluks have heaved a sigh of relief with the State government recently promising to translocate 30 trouble-making elephants from the region.

However, they are also aware that it will take a couple of years to finish the operation.

The elephant menace began in the area in the 1990s. As the number of elephants increased from a handful to over 30, parents were worried till their children returned home safe from schools. People ensured that they reach home before sunset as the animals could be sighted anywhere anytime in their habitats.

More than 50 people died in the last 15 years due to elephant attacks. The value of crop lost over the years is too huge to imagine. Residents could not afford to leave the villages to settle somewhere else as there was no demand for agriculture land there.

H.P. Mohan, a coffee planter and environmentalist of Alur, said translocating elephants was the only solution to relieve local residents from the ordeal they have been going through all these years. “Agriculture economy suffered a downfall all these years. The government should start the operation soon,” he said.

The State government expressed its commitment to translocate elephants after the Karnataka High Court cleared a proposal based on the recommendations of the Karnataka Elephant Task Force.

Forest Minister B. Ramanath Rai promised local residents recently that the translocation of elephants would begin in January next year. The department will have to get approval from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests and the task force, who are opposed to the proposal.

Initially, the department was planning to translocate elephants to other forests to avoid human-animal conflict. But, now it has been decided to keep them in elephant camps maintained by the department. These elephants will be put in wooden chambers for weeks before handing them over to mahouts.

Dipak Sarmah, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, said the operation would be conducted in phases. “We may take at least two-three months to catch one group of elephants. The whole operation may take at least two years, as it is not a simple task,” he said.

However, according to estimations of local forest watchers and guards, the total number of elephants frequenting human habitats is more than 30.

The department is also contemplating installing solar fencing, which is more effective than wire-fencing, to avoid entry of elephants into human habitats and agriculture fields.

Meanwhile, a section of local residents said the Forest Department should be blamed for the elephant menace.

“Setting up power plants in the forests in the Western Ghats disturbed the fragile eco-system there. As we entered the domain of elephants, they are forced to come out. Shifting them to a different locality is nothing but punishing animals for the mistakes we committed,” Vijay Kumar, an environmentalist, said.

Sathish G.T. in Hassan

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