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'Seal forest exit points to prevent jumbos from straying'

Bosky Khanna, Bangalore, Jan 5, 2014, DHNS: 2:17 IST
Reviewing the increasing number of cases of elephants straying out of forests in search of fodder and creating panic among people, experts suggest that vulnerable forest exit points around the Bannerghatta National Park, except their migratory corridor, should be closed permanently.

There are have been many incidents in the past where elephants have strayed close to human habitation, leading to loss of life and crops. In January last year, a herd of five juvenile tuskers was seen camping in Hanumanthapura lake near the Tumkur Road highway. In June the same year, a herd of 13 elephants had strayed close to the Electronics City near Sarjapura Road.

Speaking to Deccan Herald, Raman Sukumar, noted elephant scientist and professor at the Centre for Ecological Sciences, the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, said the case of elephant straying have become quite frequent.

“If you note, areas in northern and eastern Bangalore are not their habitat. There are a few green patches and elephants straying out of the forest areas use them for hiding. It is thus advisable to seal the exit points of Bannerghatta, except the southern part, so that elephants access Cauvery and the adjoining areas of Tamil Nadu, Hosur and Hoskote. So, in our paper presented to the government, we had suggested a few elephant removal zones in Karnataka, especially Savandurga and Tumkur near Bangalore. This is because many bulls are sighted straying around. They should be captured and shifted back to Bannerghatta. The area should be sealed with barricades so that they do not venture out.”

He pointed out that southern and western Bangalore have more elephant habitats than other parts of the City. While there is no pragmatic policy to keep elephants at bay, some efforts should be made to keep the bulls away from moving into these green patches. Sukumar added that the increasing number of conflict cases has made the elephants bolder. “They are now used to the presence of humans, bursting of firecrackers and short-distance chases. It has been noticed that elephants usually return to the same place from where they were chased. This was not the case earlier,” he said.

While experts point out that the forest cover has reduced in some places, in many patches it has increased, easing elephant movement. But the presence of various crops outside forests such as paddy, sugar cane, areca nut, banana and vegetables and fruits is attracting them. The swelling water bodies outside reserves and drought inside forests are other factors. Also, the increase in Lantana and Camera bushes has reduced natural vegetation in forests, due to which elephants are straying out.

This is also the time when elephants stray out of forests, because they are now well aware that it is the cropping season. They come to relish healthy and nutritious food. September to January is the season when many cases of man-elephant conflicts occur.

Karnataka houses a healthy population of elephants. There are around 6,000 elephants in the State as per the last elephant census conducted in 2012. Forest Department officials accept this move. They say that this is a very viable idea and should be immediately implemented in all forest areas.

Vinay Luthra, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (wildlife), said, “This is a viable solution. On a trial basis, in some parts, iron rods or old railway barricades are being erected in Nagarahole Tiger Reserve. This besides the elephant-proof trenches and solar fences in most places. If iron and railway barricades prove successful, it will take two or three years to erect them at points from where elephants stray out. We are identifying vulnerable areas in all forest covers, including Bannerghatta, where such barricades have to be constructed.”

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