Guwahati: What can we do when an elephant attacks us, who can help us, and how to deal with emergency situations? Park officials can now consult a 100-page manual now to deal with human-elephant conflict in India.

A handbook for foresters working in key elephant landscapes across Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Bengal, Assam and Uttarakhand has been brought out by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) along with the Wildlife Institute of India (WWI) and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF India).

It was released on Friday by Union forest, environment and climate change minister Bhupender Yadav. 

Around 500 people are believed to be killed by elephants every year in India, and around 100 elephants are estimated to be killed by electrocution, poisoning, train accidents, and poaching for ivory or other elephant parts.

“Human-Elephant Conflict( HEC) manifests in a range of ways. Sometimes, conflict escalates and results in the death of people and elephants –  Crop and property damage by elephants is another visible manifestation of conflict. HEC also has more hidden repercussions. People who have to spend their nights guarding crops and property against elephants suffer from the ill effects of loss of sleep. The perpetual threat of elephants lurking in or near the village, or even breaking into a person’s home, can also cause chronic fear and stress in communities especially beset by HEC,” the manual says.

The document is intended to provide a coherent, systematic approach to dealing with HEC is based on effective work by State Forest Departments and civil society over the years. The Field Manual is aimed to provide Forest Department officials with a set of best practices to reduce human-elephant conflict, promoting both humans well-being and elephant conservation.

The manual provides immediate, short-term, and medium-term actions to address HEC; tested interventions that aim to minimize how many elephants harm people or property in human-dominated areas and the most affordable intervention in each case, recommending more expensive or resource-intensive interventions only when less expensive alternatives are exhausted.

“If properly applied, this Field Manual could ultimately lead to a database that can help Forest Department officials find and address patterns in the incidence of conflict. Systematically collected data could help officials identify hotspots of conflict, understand if specific individual elephants are responsible for most conflict, assess whether a population of elephants have learned to surmount a type of barrier, and detect long-term trends in human death due to conflict and in the illegal killing of elephants,” it says.

India is home to approximately around 27,000 Asian Elephants which is the world’s largest population of this rare species.

Ramesh Pandey, IG, Project Elephant, at the launch event said, “Human-Elephant conflict is an area where we need to collaborate with all the stakeholders to save lives of both humans and elephants. The efforts to bring out the field manual with WWF India and WII is such an endeavour, which I am sure will be a good tool for field officials to use in mitigating different HEC situations.” 

“WWF India, Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and Project Elephant have compiled the ‘Field manual for Managing Human-Elephant Conflict’ with details of best practices for minimizing human-elephant conflict. This document is drafted with the aim of providing forest officials, departments and other stakeholders with guidance towards interventions to help mitigate Human-Elephant Conflict, both in emergencies and when conflict poses a recurring challenge, shared by Mr Ravi Singh, Secretary-General and CEO, WWF India,” Pandey said.

He further adds, “The field manual specifies the conditions under which forest officials and their teams should consider various interventions and is a living document that will incorporate on-field experiences from time to time. This manual is a result of years of field experience and efforts that our teams have gained to help both affected communities and elephants.”

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