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Odisha can see highest human casualties due to elephant conflict this year

  • IASbaba
  • February 11, 2022
  • 0
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(Down to Earth: Wildlife & Biodiversity)


Jan 20: Odisha can see highest human casualties due to elephant conflict this year – https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/wildlife-biodiversity/odisha-can-see-highest-human-casualties-due-to-elephant-conflict-this-year-experts-81211  

TOPIC:

  • GS-3: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

Odisha can see highest human casualties due to elephant conflict this year

Context: Odisha can see the highest-ever human casualties due to human-elephant conflict (HEC) in 2021-2022 than the years before, experts have warned. 

  • Some 97 people have been killed in HEC from March 2021 to January 18, 2022. 
  • There have been 96 injuries. 
  • Sundargarh has recorded the highest human deaths due to HEC this year: 21 of the total 97 deaths. It is followed by Keonjhar (12) where rampant mining is permitted by the forest department.
  • Some 611 elephants too have died in Odisha from April, 2014 to January 18, 2022. Of these, 191 have died unnatural deaths mainly due to electrocution (90), poaching and poisoning (77) and train and road kills (24).

Reasons for man-animal conflict:

  • Expansion of human settlements into forests – expansion of cities, industrial areas, railway/road infrastructure, tourism etc.
  • Allowing livestock to graze in forest areas
  • Land use transformations such as change from protected forest patches to agricultural and horticultural lands and monoculture plantations are further destroying the habitats of wildlife.
  • Unscientific structures and practices of forest management in the country
  • Infestation of wildlife habitat by invasive exotic weeds leads to decreased availability of edible grasses for wild herbivores
  • Decreased prey base caused by poaching of herbivores has also resulted in carnivores moving out of forests in search of prey and to indulge in cattle lifting.
  • Due to uncontrolled mining activity, the stressed elephants are angry and enter villages in search of food, killing locals in the process. Every mining proposal in dense forests that are elephant habitat and feeding grounds has been cleared by the department,

The Way Forward

India’s culture of tolerance must be supplemented by innovative, evidence-driven, socially-just institutions that govern the human-wildlife interface. For this, the Indian government and civil society need relevant and timely data. 

First, we need to better understand the core ecological variables

  • How many elephants are there, and how are they distributed? Do the forests that the elephants live in have enough palatable vegetation, or has it been replaced by invasive weeds and inedible plantation trees like teak? 
  • In northeast India, we don’t even know all the places elephants go, inhibiting the protection of their habitat and lives. Such vital data could empower conservationists to pursue forest regeneration, grassland restoration, and corridor protection necessary to support large populations of elephants.

Second, data on human-elephant conflicts

  • Currently, data on crop-raiding by elephants, elephant deaths, and human deaths due to conflict are buried in paper files scattered across the country, preventing timely analyses. If state governments develop electronic databases on human-elephant conflict, the government and civil society can target interventions to places where elephants are troubling communities. 
  • We can strategically choose where to help farmers replace lethal electric fences with effective non-lethal barriers, deploy awareness programmes to minimise accidental encounters, and strengthen the administration of fair compensation programmes.
  • The building of such evidence-driven institutions to protect elephants requires funding. While NGOs could use help from the private sector, the government must also step up. 

Third, consider further dis-incentivizing cruelty towards animals

  • Currently, the wildlife laws guiding sentencing for illegal hunting do not consider whether the animal suffered a slow and painful death. India’s conservation laws are geared to protect species, not prevent animal cruelty.
  • Accepting that the people will continue to kill wild animals, perhaps our laws should regard cruel acts more harshly than, say, defending crops with a gun when there is no alternative. 

Also,

  • 60 per cent of HEC involved tuskers. It was possible to prevent these confrontations if tuskers were identified and continuously tracked by expert trackers. Tracking is not happening since most trackers are actually deployed on other duties.
  • Humans encountered elephants early in the morning while going out to relieve themselves in 50 per cent of the cases. The forest department should convince people to use toilets built under the Swachh Bharat Mission.
  • Local youth teased elephant herds who then vented their anger on old people who could not run. Some casualties had occurred while people were taking selfies with elephants. The forest department must prevent this harassment by putting up warning sign boards and punishing offenders.
  • Nearly 25 per cent of human casualties happened when the walls of huts were toppled by elephants to raid paddy and liquor. A massive door-to-door campaign needed to be launched by the forest department to make people aware about the danger of storing food grains and liquor in bedrooms.
  • The forest department must prevent people from collecting fruits from reserve forests and sanctuaries so that there is enough left for elephants’ consumption.
  • Discoms should strengthen power supply poles, raise power lines to the stipulated 5.5 metres in height and fix earth leakage circuit breakers instead of abruptly cutting off power.
  • Ensuring that elephant corridors are not razed/neglected due to overzealous developmental approach
  • Radio tagging of elephants can help identify danger spots and also avoid man-animal conflict
  • Ban on illegal electrical fencing with proper guidelines for maintaining the height of high tension electrical wires – cabling of power lines should be mandatory
  • A proper zone-wise management plan for different elephant landscapes — where to allow elephants and where to restrict their movement
  • Effort should be to expand elephant corridors, using the successful models within the country, including acquisition of lands using private funds and their transfer to the government.

Note:

World Elephant Day: 12th August

The Indian elephant

  • One of three extant recognized subspecies of the Asian elephant and native to mainland Asia
  • Listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List 
  • The wild population has declined by at least 50% since the 1930s
  • Threatened by loss, degradation and fragmentation of its habitat
  • An endangered species included in Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. The animals included in Schedule 1 need high level of protection. The Schedule provides for the certificate of ownership and makes it mandatory for the elephant owners to provide adequate facilities for the housing, maintenance and upkeep of captive elephants.

About Project Elephant

  • It is a flagship programme of Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF)
  • Launched in 1992 it is a Centrally-sponsored scheme
  • Primarily aimed at protecting elephant, their habitats and corridors
  • It addresses issues of man-animal conflict and welfare of domesticated elephants.

Elephant corridors are strips of land connecting two large habitats, which are supposed to provide a safe corridor for elephants to migrate from one landscape to another. In India, there are 101 elephant corridors.

Elephant Information Network (EIN)

  • Has enabled human-elephant coexistence in southern India
  • Acts as an early warning mechanism to alert people when elephants are nearby, minimizing negative human-elephant interactions, and increasing people’s tolerance towards elephants.
  • By Mr. Ananda Kumar

Can you answer the following questions?

  1. Why are man-animal conflicts on the rise in India? Identify the high risks/vulnerable zones and also suggest what corrective measures can be taken to avoid these conflicts?
  2. Human-wildlife conflict is not linear, and can have unforeseen ripple effects on biodiversity and the forest ecosystem. Discuss

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