Border residents spend sleepless nights over elephant menace
Representational image Credit: Representational image

Agartala: The Tripura forest department, as part of its efforts to reduce man-animal conflicts, has decided to use GPS-enabled devices to track the movement of elephants, said deputy chief wildlife warden K G Roy.

A Bengaluru-based company has been entrusted with the task of fitting radio collars around the neck of elephants and work is expected to be completed by December this year.

“The radio collars will help us track the movement of the wild elephants. We can take measures to push them back to forests if found anywhere near human habitations,” Roy told PTI.

At least 50 incidents of man-elephant conflict were recorded in the state since 2019.

“We have settled 30 such cases so far. The rest will also be taken care of soon,” the deputy chief wildlife warden said.

Earlier, West Bengal, Uttarakhand, Chhatisgarh among other states have used radio collars to minimise man-jumbo conflicts.

The state government has also embarked on a beekeeping project in agricultural lands to prevent elephant attacks and taken steps to grow bamboo and banana in the forests, Roy said.

A special elephant census, conducted last year by the State Board for Wildlife, found that the population of elephants in Tripura has increased to 40 from 38 in 2002.

Notably, British surveyor John Hunter, in his report, had once said that elephants outnumbered humans in the erstwhile princely state, one reason why the colonisers did not consider taking administrative control of the place.

Their numbers began sliding, however, with the clearing of forests for construction of a hydel power project on Gomati river, forest officials said.

Elephants slowly migrated from the Gomati reserve forest area to Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh, where food was available to them in abundance, they said.

As their habitat kept shrinking over the years, elephants also took to invading villages in search of food, often flattening houses, damaging crops and killing people that came in the way.

Many pachyderms have also been targeted by poachers, the officials added.

A senior official said the Tripura government has decided to set up an elephant reserve at Gandhari in Gomati district for conservation of the pachyderms.

The forest department has also moved a proposal before the state government for erecting solar-powered electric fences around some villages in Khowai district’s Teliamura subdivision, where several instances of elephant attacks in the recent past left at least one man dead and many others injured, the official said.

Atharamura hill, spanning parts of Khowai and Dhalai districts, is home to at least 18 elephants, according to the census carried out by the department in 2020-21.

The solar-powered barrier, once set up, will give non-lethal shocks to the elephants if they come in contact with it, the official said, adding that the cost of erecting fences across 1 km stood at Rs 20 lakh approximately.

In neighbouring Assam, the solar-powered fence has turned out to be a beneficial tool to prevent man-animal conflict in Rani Forest Reserve, near Guwahati, he stated.

Roy said the state government has recently set up a camp at Mungiakami in Atharamur hill range of Dhalai district, where four elephants are being reared and trained to patrol areas, where man-elephant conflict is acute, and ward off herds if found approaching human habitations.

Of the four, two are Kumki elephants.

Kumkis are trained captive Asian elephants, often used for calming and herding other wild tuskers or to lead them away from conflict situations, he explained.

They also help in locating and rescuing trapped and injured elephants, Roy added.

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