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Since Jharkhand’s creation, 1,405 people and around 80 elephants killed in human-animal conflict

Written by Abhishek Angad
| Ranchi |

Published: June 10, 2020 7:38:02 am

On an average, the two face off every day, killing 74 people every year and injuring at least 130, say documents accessed by The Indian Express. (File)

The raging conflict between humans and animals in Jharkhand have killed 1,405 people and around “80 elephants” since the state was created 19 years ago.

On an average, the two face off every day, killing 74 people every year and injuring at least 130, say documents accessed by The Indian Express.

Elephants, in their battle for survival amid depleting resources and human encroachment of their habitat, die across the states: mowed down by speeding trains, electrocuted by fences around crops or after biting into explosives-laden fruit that recently killed a pregnant elephant in Kerala.

Experts said the state does not have a “concrete” elephant management plan. Steady depletion of forest habit forces elephants to enter villages looking for food. From 2016 till January this year, 301 people have died, 609 people have been injured in the conflict.

Last week in Ranchi’s Ragriam village, an elephant came down the hill to drink water, scaring villagers. The jumbo’s leg was swollen. The villagers gave it grains to eat and the Forest Department later gave it vegetables stuffed with medicines.

“The elephant was injured so there was no violent encounter, but every harvest season we are scared as elephants roam in to eat grains. Sometimes destroy crops and houses,” said villager Kali Mahato.

Earlier this year, at least five people were killed in East Singhbhum. And then there are drunk who get trampled after challenging elephants.

The state government has so far paid Rs 10.16 crore to the families of human-animal conflict.

Wildlife biologist DS Srivastava said the state’s approach to elephant conservation is “halfhearted”.

“Due to increase in mining and forest degradation, the elephant habitat has been disturbed, forcing them change their diet. Bamboo plant is a staple for elephants, but it has depleted and they are attracted towards paddy and maize. An elephant calf that sees its mother feeding on grains does the same later,” he said.

Since 2016 till January this year, there has been 30,341 instances of damage to crop, house, grains and cattle in Jharkhand by wild animals and the government has paid Rs 14.25 crore in compensation.

Experts said the government spends a lot of money in compensation and it is in the state’s interest to improve elephant habitat.

“Everything is in an adhoc manner,” Srivastava said.

Srivastava said that earlier elephants used to move from Saranda forest to Dalma Sanctuary in West Bengal via Khunti and Saraikela. Due to forest degradation, the elephants are “scattered everywhere”, increasing human-animal conflict.

“The biggest problem is that in all developmental activities elephants are not considered a stakeholder,” he said.

Srivastava suggested bringing NREGA into saving elephant habitat. “Under NREGA, bamboo plantation can be done in forest areas which will also give livelihood to people. The results will be visible in three years,” he said.

Jharkhand’s Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Head of Forest Force Shashi Nandkeolyar agrees that elephants are moving into human habitat due to forest degradation. He said that “around 80 elephants have died in the last 19 years”.

“Some areas like Singhbhum are affected and the area is also under Elephant Project. The forest has degraded. We are focusing on habitat improvements, like plantations of their preferred foods, developing waterholes among others. We also have a task force for creating awareness and in the last few years we have been able to contain human deaths,” said Nandkeolyar.

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