HT, 7 Jul 2016, KOLKATA: State forest department has launched an SMSbased early warning system to prevent elephant attacks which have reached record levels over the past one decade.
The problem has aggravated drastically after Nepal and Odisha dug trenches and set up electric fences to stop migratory herds from crossing the border. Last year, Nepal has set up 18-km electric fence to stop the elephant herds.
“The matter has taken serious proportions. We have taken it up with the Odisha government and the Centre. However, so far nothing has happened. As a result, elephant herds, which used to spend around two to four months in Bengal, are now staying for more than 10 months in the state. The result is increasing incidents of man-elephant conflict,” said Chandan Sinha, state forest secretary.
At least 108 people were killed by elephants in the state in 2015-16. The highest number of people killed by elephants in south Bengal even a decade ago was just 40 in a year. This has shot up to 71 in 2015-16. Even though West Bengal has just two percent of the India’s elephant population, the state accounts for nearly 20% of the human death toll.
“We have launched a series of steps to check man-elephant conflict in Bengal. While on one hand a SMS-based early warning system has been developed to alert villagers about elephant herds, on the other hand we have started preparing dossiers to track the daily movement of elephants. This will help us to identify rogue and marauding elephants,” said PK Vyas, chief wildlife warden.
An Elephant Movement Coordination Committee (EMCC) has been set up two months ago, particularly for south Bengal, which is monitoring the daily movement of elephant herds and even solitary ones.
This is to ensure that unnecessary obstructions are not caused and elephants can move freely. When obstructed repeatedly, jumbos are irritated which results in more conflicts.
“In order to ensure free movement of elephants, we have started ‘Barrier Mapping’ through which all kinds of barriers, including trenches and fences will be removed. We will be engaging experts for this,” said Vyas.
Forest department employees are being trained on how to identify rogue elephants and immobilize an elephant when it starts causing damage. They will act as the first line of defence before experts reach the spot. The state is procuring at least 10 tranquillizer guns. Two rescue and rehab centres are also coming up in the state one each in north Bengal and south Bengal.