An elephant corridor in Teliamura forest sub-division under Khowai district of Tripura

Agartala: In a recent survey conducted on the wild elephants in the state, the Tripura government found that there are around 45-50 of them present in two districts, Khowai and Gomati, said chief wildlife warden Dr DK Sharma.

Speaking with EastMojo, Sharma said that the survey was started earlier in March. It takes at least two years to complete the whole process as it requires to identify the population and analyse the report, he added.

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“In the latest survey, it was found that Tripura has around 45 to 50 wild elephants in Khowai and Gomati districts, divided into two groups of 22 to 25,” Sharma said.

According to a survey conducted in 2008, it was found that the population of wild elephants had gone up to 59 compared to 38 in the 2002 census.

“The number of elephants has probably reduced since the migration of elephants from Bangladesh stopped following the fencing of the international border. Earlier, the number kept on changing since the elephants kept on moving across the countries,” Sharma said.

According to British surveyor John Hunter’s report, when elephants outnumbered humans in the kingdom during the colonial times, it was the reason why the colonisers did not consider taking administrative control of the region.

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He also said that Asian elephants are mostly found in Southeast Asian countries like India, Myanmar, Thailand, Nepal, Sri Lanka, while the African elephants are available in African countries.

“The African elephant population is over 4 lakh, while the Asian elephant population is around 50,000, of which around 60% elephants are present in different states of India,” Sharma added.

Speaking further, he said that on an average every year, around 400 humans and 100 elephants die due to man-animal conflicts in India.

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“Tripura reports very less conflicts. Most of the incidents are reported whenever humans enter forcefully inside elephant zones, but no elephant has ever killed anybody entering human habitation,” Sharma said.

Explaining the reason behind the conflicts, Sharma said that Tripura’s landscape has hills and terrain and crops are harvested in the middle of the jungle. Due to continued movement of humans inside elephant zones, the population gets disturbed.

“On an average, an adult elephant has a requirement of around 200 kg of food and therefore it keeps on moving from one place to another. Since they require nutritious food, when they fall short of crops they start grassing from the crop field in the jungle which results in man and elephants conflict,” Sharma added.

The forest department has also decided to radio-collar the herds of wild elephants across the state to keep track of their movement. The device will provide the updates of the real-time locations of the herds and help the forest department officials to track their movement and take measures accordingly.

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“We have called an NGO for the work and they will start the work once the materials are imported. By the starting of winter the radio collaring will be done. We have decided to first cover the Khowai population as reports of disturbance are mostly reported in this district”, Sharma added.

Earlier on July 15 last year, union minister of state for Environment, forest and climate change, Babul Supriyo in reply to a query made by West Tripura MP, Pratima Bhoumik said that there are a total of 9,651 elephants in the northeastern states, while Tripura has 102 elephants populace till 2017.

“The forest department had initiated to install beekeeping devices in the agricultural field to keep the herds of elephants away from the field. The elephants fear bees, so it keeps them away from the inhabitants. We have also suggested the people to start beekeeping for generating livelihood and keeping the herds away at the same time,” chief wildlife warden said.

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Apart from that the forest department has also made arrangements of adequate fodder reserves in the jungles to meet the thirst and hunger of wild elephants. Bamboo, banana plantations were made by the officials in the forest along with check dams constructed within the forest.

On the occasion of World Elephant Day the forest department has also initiated an online awareness campaign owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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