The elephant is deeply loved and revered in India. It was the choice of Emperors during the princely era and several elephants are still employed for various works in India. It may thus appear surprising to people that elephant-man conflicts are alarmingly becoming a ritual which no one seems to have any solution for. There have been reported attacks by herds of elephant in several parts of India the most notable being in Assam’s Udalguri district when rampaging elephants killed several, including children, and also destroyed houses and public property. So, it is a question worth asking as to what has changed that has annoyed this otherwise gentle and giant mammal.
Some of the major reasons that have led to ferocious conflicts are largely due to humans and their actions. The human population has been increasing and thus the need for land for dwelling and agriculture. This has a huge impact on elephant population as encroachment by humans mean that elephants have to migrate to newer areas in search of food and water. Often, herds get lost or get too close to humans and in lure of eatables they end up attacking crops and water resources. This automatically results in man-elephant conflict and it leads to loss of life on both sides. The natural green cover that used to provide food for elephants has been left barren by mindless deforestation. Also, poaching and capturing elephants for their tusks has had a harmful impact on elephant numbers. The attacked herd then starts looking for safer areas and this increases the chance of conflict. But there are ways by which fatal accidents and accidental brush-offs can be avoided to a large extent. Here are a few of them:
Setting up of National Parks: National parks are a great way to protect such conflicts. National parks and wildlife sanctuaries across India are doing a great job in protecting elephant herds from getting too close to humans. The national parks in Kerala provide natural habitat to the elephant while also forming a formidable fence that helps in their survival. Also declaring 32 elephant reserves as ecologically sensitive area would provide a much needed relief as it would stop human interference to a large extent as after such a declaration the area would fall under Environment Protection Act.
Legal and ethical Mining: It has come to notice that illegal mining in the elephant reserves has led to a mass exodus of elephants; hence a proper strategy that places premium on the sanctity of the elephant’s natural surroundings must be put into place.
Manning of conflict boundaries: Just like in wildlife sanctuaries where forest personnel are always within scope to extend help, it would be better to deploy personnel in sensitive areas where man-elephant conflicts are becoming regular.
Educating Masses: An elephant is a wild animal and is extremely sensitive to its surrounding. People should go to wildlife sanctuaries or national parks if they wish to see this animal. Overtime employment in strenuous tasks can wreak havoc with its health thus making it aggressive and prone to attacking humans. It is thus advisable to educate people and keep them away from employing wild elephants, which would eventually help in decreasing man-elephant conflicts.
Rehabilitation and Research: The two R’s are the most important step in making sure that man-elephant conflicts do not exist at all. Scientists and conservationists must be involved at every step. Research must be undertaken to understand the elephant exodus pattern and adequate relief must be provided so that elephants and human do not fight an existential battle. Again, wildlife sanctuaries and national parks will play a vital role but scientific thought must be at the forefront of any such initiative.
India is home to one sixth of the total elephant population and thus, it is imperative that steps be taken to make sure that elephant-man conflicts cease to exist. Setting up of vast wildlife sanctuaries and national parks in Kerala and other Indian state is a positive development. But the exploding population and its pressure on flora and fauna must be checked if any untoward accidents are to be avoided.
Author Bio:Jessica Frei is a wildlife enthusiast and a blogger too, she likes to travel different national parks and wildlife sanctuaries all over the globe. She is currently in India for her wildlife tour. She always shares her experience through articles and blogs.