Conflict between man and elephants claims 118 lives since 2022 in Assam
Guwahati/Agartala, August 27: Human deaths due to human-elephant conflicts are increasing in Assam, with 118 people losing their lives since last year. During the same period, as many as 29 wild elephants died, either after being run over by trains or from other causes, including electrocution.
The loss of life is mostly due to the large number of leathery mammals emerging from the forests in search of food.
Forest and wildlife officials in Assam state said 73 people were killed by elephant attacks last year, while 45 have died so far this year. Among the victims are many women.
In all, 21 elephants were killed due to train accidents, electrocution and other mishaps last year, while eight elephants have died so far this year due to similar misfortunes.
According to reports, between 1990 and 2018, a total of 115 elephants died in Assam due to train collisions.
Assam State Department of Forestry and Environment officials said 71 elephants, including calves, were killed in 2021, mainly due to train collisions, poisoning, electrocution and accidental deaths, including falls into ponds and ditches and lightning strikes.
In May 2021, 18 Gambians were killed by a lightning bolt in Nagaon district, central Assam.
As per the latest census, India is home to 27,312 elephants, of which the state of Assam has 5,719 elephants, the second largest population of elephants in India after Karnataka (6,049).
According to the State of India’s Forests Report 2019, Assam has only 36.11 per cent forest cover out of its total geographical area of 78,438 sq km.
Of the total forest area of 28,327 square kilometers, only 2,795 square kilometers are dense forests, while 10,279 square kilometers are medium-density forests.
Northeast India’s leading biodiversity conservation organization Araniyak has launched a massive ‘Gajah Kotha’ (Elephant Story) campaign involving more than 1,500 people to alleviate human-elephant conflict in Assam and Meghalaya.
To address the pressing issue of increasing human-elephant conflict in Assam and Meghalaya, Araniyak and the British Asian Trust, in partnership with the forest departments of Assam and Meghalaya and with the support of the Darwin Initiative, are implementing the ‘gajah kota’ initiative as part of their efforts to promote coexistence between local communities and elephants.
The initiative targets villages affected by human-elephant conflict and educates people about elephant behaviour, their environment, their cultural connection to the region and the importance of their conservation.
“We developed the Gajah Kotha campaign through multiple brainstorming sessions and launched it to facilitate coexistence between humans and elephants in Assam and Meghalaya.
“The campaign illustrates the dynamic ways of coexistence with gentle giants, who are also animals of India’s national heritage. We are working with a wide range of stakeholders in society through Gajah Kotha, including students, community leaders, the general public, government departments and NGOs,” said Bibhuti Prasad Lakar. , Chief Scientist and Head of Elephant Research and Conservation, “We look forward to working with many stakeholders to enhance coexistence, which will ultimately contribute to the conservation of Asian elephants.”
Aluika Sinha, a conservation biologist at Aranjak, said that educating local people about the causes of human-elephant conflict and how we can sustainably increase their capacities is an important component of mitigating conflict, promoting coexistence and protecting people’s well-being.
“Moreover, we must work towards long-term approaches such as securing habitats and elephant corridors to reduce human-elephant conflict and ensuring the conservation of elephants and other biodiversity,” she added.
According to Aranjak, 24 Gaja Kotha campaigns have been conducted so far in Majuli Haldibari, Jaborchuk Katuni, Jazira, Gazira High School, Ojani Majuli Kherkatiya High School, Pop Majuli Kherkatiya HS, Jaborchuk Bassa, and Gopanchuk.
The campaign was also held in many districts of Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, Sivasagar, Jorhat and other districts.
“Our community educators, field staff and village heroes are working relentlessly on this coexistence initiative in Assam, home to an established elephant population,” said Zakir Islam Bora, Araniyak official in charge of the initiative in eastern Assam.
“We have launched the ‘Mungma Golpo’ (Elephant Stories) awareness campaign in the West Jarrow Hills district of Meghalaya on the occasion of World Elephant Day on August 12 using IEC materials,” Bora said.
So far, the lead NGO has conducted four such awareness campaigns, most of which targeted villagers, most of whom belong to the Garo, Rabha and Bodo indigenous communities in Jamdamghar, Borogopol, Lower Darinchegry and Lower Kharsindab villages.
Araniac also works in other hotspots of human-elephant conflict and has adopted a multi-pronged, multi-stakeholder approach to conserving biodiversity, reducing conflict and ensuring human well-being.
(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at email@example.com)
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