TANGLA, ASSAM December 5: Can animal and people co-exist sharing land, water and food and live peacefully?Perhaps it is a million dollar question in today’s world where human animal conflict is a burning issue that seeks immediate attention.
A village in Bhutiachang TE of Udalguri district of has shown a novel experiment to resolve the elephant-human conflict that started about couple of years ago and it appears to be paying dividends.
The 4 No. Bhutiachang like many other villages in Indo-Bhutan border area of Udalguri district is frequented by herds of wild jumbos thus claiming human life and destruction of property.
The villagers novel experiment with the belief that undue aggression on part of villagers often enrages the elephants and it develops a hatred for humans, the villagers have ceased their hostility to the elephants. “We have secured our paddy fields with solar fencing and at the same time never tried to hinder the elephants’ movement in our village”, said a VDP member.
The co-existance strategy adopted by the villagers can be deemed from the fact that they do not complain when elephants damage their betel-nut trees. The village primary school also continues to function normally even when 50-odd elephants keep rummaging barely a few hundred yards away.
The villagers have also been reportedly feeding banana trees to the elephants in a bid to strike a ‘cordial relationship’ with the elephants.
Though the villagers might be unaware of it but that is what conservationists call a “matrix habitat” — a mixture of forests, estates and small agricultural holdings, inhabited by people and a few hundred elephants.
“Having grown up in this region with lots of exposure to wild animals alongside people, I was a little sceptical on the behaviour of elephants ”. said Subit a local Adivasi boy volunteering for Elephants On Line an NGO of North Carolina State university .
“We cannot completely prohibit elephants from coming into the area. The elephants have been using these paths for centuries, and it is only recently that man has come into the path of these animals.” Subit added.
“Our studies realised that elephants and humans simply had to co-exist peacefully – the mammoth problem could not be wished away. “,said another local wildlife activist.
MK Sarma, DFO, Dhansiri Wildlife Division, while appreciating the locals’ role in easing the man-elephant conflict, said that the Forest Department intends to train up villagers for mitigating the conflict.
“There are proper ways to deal with elephants that frequent human habitations. Getting panicky or becoming hostile to the animals will only maximise the damages. We will train up local youths for handling elephants in such areas. This will also lessen the burden on the manpower-starved Forest Department,” Sarma said.
The human-elephant mitigating efforts of District administration and Dhansiri Forest division along with members of student bodies and local wildlife activist is paying dividends as statistics speak. “Compared to previous years this year till date 2 elephants and six people have lost their life in human-elephant conflict, perhaps lowest in the last decade “,added another wildlife activist.
Nevertheless stories of such intricate systems of co-existence can go far way in mitigating the man-elephant conflict in the region.
Shajid Khan is an independent journalist based in Assam . Currently pursuing my graduation in English literature. . He can be reached at email@example.com.