Dibya Kamal Bordoloi
Altogether, 812 people have died because of the human-elephant conflict in Assam during the last ten years.
Guwahati: World Elephant Day is being observed all over the world on Thursday (August 12).
Assam, the second largest home in India for the giant animal, is also observing the day. But the ever-growing men-elephant conflict is a growing cause of concern for the wildlife lovers of the state. Altogether, 812 people have died because of the human-elephant conflict in Assam during the last ten years, Environment and Forests Minister Parimal Suklabaidya said recently in the state assembly.
The highest number of 115 deaths were reported from the Udalguri district of North Assam, followed by 103 in Sonitpur and 51 in the Darrang district in the same region. Seventy-four people were killed in the Goalpara district bordering the dense jungles of Meghalaya. The forest minister informed the assembly. Golaghat, Jorhat, Nagaon, Sivasagar districts of upper Assam also witness the rise in men-elephant conflicts. Several people have lost their lives in these districts in conflict with wild elephants.
Hundreds of elephants were also killed during the same period by humans, though the exact figure is not available. With a growing population and encroachment by humans in elephant habitats, the jumbo animals are forced to come out of jungles searching for food. Decreased vegetation and jungle areas rapidly increased the conflicts. The government data shows that at least 62 elephants were killed by being hit by a train while crossing the railway tracks passed through jungles in the last ten years in Assam. On May 12 this year, 20 wild elephants were killed in a hillock in Nagaon district, probably due to lightning. Wildlife experts stated that the giant animal's unavailability of huge trees and dense forest might have caused the pathetic incident.
The state government has taken several measures to mitigate human-animal conflict, Suklabaidya said. The measures include setting up a committee that provides information about the movement of animals in sensitive areas to the railways, power and forest departments, he said.
The World Wild Fund (WWF) has been engaged to train the Village Defence Party (VDP) to reduce human-elephant conflict, and the forest minister informed the assembly.
Anti Depredation Squads have also been set up in each district to prevent the conflict, and each squad has been provided with equipment needed to deal with the situation.
In Kaziranga National Park, sensor-based barriers have been set up to monitor and regulate the movement of elephants along with other animals, the forest minister said.
All the district authorities of the human-elephant conflict zones have also been directed to use drones to monitor the movement of elephants by the Assam government. According to the 2017 wildlife census, there are almost 5719 wild elephants in Assam.