Human-elephant conflict on the rise in Assam

May 17th, 2012 - 3:25 pm ICT by IANS  

Guwahati, May 17 (IANS) The death of a female elephant undergoing treatment for paralysis in Assam’s Karbi Anglong district Wednesday has again brought to light the human-elephant conflict in the region.

The adult animal was found paralysed May 2 in the compound of a house in Nahorsala village in the northeastern range of Silonijan.

State’s forest department officials said the elephant was attacked by villagers after she broke into a house. She, however, fell down in the courtyard, due to posterior paralysis.

The forest officials then secured the area and got together a team of experts, including veterinarians from Guwahati Veterinary College and Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), to treat the elephant. The exact cause of paralysis could not be ascertained.

“Conflict is a fact of life in areas where people and elephants coexist, especially due to agriculture,” said Abhijit Rabha, chief conservator of forests in the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council.

Karbi Anglong, around 300 km from here, is the largest autonomous district in the northeastern state of Assam.

“If we don’t have contiguous forests, elephants will suffer. If we want elephants to survive, we must keep our forests intact and develop contiguous forest habitats to reduce conflict and promote peaceful coexistence,” he said.

“Circumstantial evidence indicated possibilities of electrocution and gunshot as a retaliatory measure by people, or even an attack by a male elephant that was sighted in the area. However, as the elephant was lying on its right flank, it was not possible to examine and verify the cause of the paralysis,” said Anthony Nokso Phangcho, a veterinarian with WTI’s Karbi Anglong Conservation Project supported by the Japan Tiger and Elephant Fund.

“The post-mortem and analysis of tissue samples will be done and may give information on the cause of death,” he said.

Between 1999 and 2009, at least 23 people have lost their lives due to human-elephant conflicts in the Silonijan divisional forest range alone in the district. Likewise, 120 such conflicts were reported between 2007 and 2009 here.

Retaliatory attacks on elephants are also often reported, WTI officials said.

Nahorsala village in Silonijan range of Karbi-Anglong is close to the Kalapahar-Doigurung elephant corridor — one of the 88 corridors listed in the WTI publication ‘Right of Passage — Elephant Corridors of India’.

“Securing corridors of elephants is the long-term solution to reduce these conflicts. Along with this, we also need to look at improving elephant habitats,” said Dilip Deori, an assistant manager with WTI.

Deori is working with the communities and local authorities to secure the Kalapahar-Daigurung corridor as well as the Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong (Panbari) corridor in Assam. “This is a difficult task (securing the corridor). We work for years to secure one corridor, but that’s our only hope as of today,” he said.

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