Jumbo menace: Forest dept for shifting of elephants

Shortage of food results in the pachyderms straying into villages

Forest staff on an ‘Operation elephant’ at Alur taluk limits. dh file photo

Similar incidents have been reported from Sakleshpur, Alur and Arakalgud taluks of Hassan district for a long time. But they do not attract such attention.

The family of Renukaprasad, who died in the incident, got a compensation of Rs 5 lakh and assurance of a government job to a member of the family. Elected representatives and people ask why similar compensation is not given to victims from the district.

The statistics of people affected by wild animals’ attack and the destruction of crops in Hassan district is shocking. According to sources in the forest department 32 people have lost their lives due to jumbo attacks, 181 injured and 223 domestic animals have been killed till 1999.

Even elephants have been victims. Till 2002, 18 elephants have been killed — eight due to electrocution.  The forest department has shifted 27 elephants from 1987. The government has disbursed Rs 3.25 crore compensation till 1999.

A committee was formed under retired PCCF M K Appaiah and Ajay A Desai in the district. The committee took up study in Alur, Yasalur, Sakleshpur and Arakalgud taluks from 1974 and 1982 and submitted a report to the Centre in 2007. According to it, there was a huge elephant population in the region where Hemavathy and Harangi reservoirs were constructed between 1974 and 1982, which later submerged. Shortage of food for elephants resulted in their straying into villages on the fringes of the forest. The only solution is shifting of elephants.

The incidence of wild jumbo attacks have been on the rise. While the elephant population is increasing, forest area is shrinking due to encroachment. As food is in short supply, the pachyderms are attracted by jack fruits, bamboo shoots and plantains and enter villages — destroying crops, incurring huge loss to farmers.

Solar fencing and illegal power connection to fences by some farmers is also said to be the reason for elephant menace. The elephants usually travel from one forest to the other via coffee plantations during the night. But installation of such fences have forced the jumbos to enter the villages.

Hooch

Some villagers brew spurious liquor, which also attracts herds of elephants. The jumbos which have tasted liquor foray into the same village again and again. Several villages in Sakleshpur taluk becomes deserted after dusk as the residents fear jumbo attacks. Shortage of forest staff and lack of equipment has also become a bane. Although the department has been urging for equipment, the government has not taken the issue seriously.

Not only jumbos, many have been injured due to bear and leopard attacks. The forest department has submitted a proposal to shift around 25 elephants at a cost of Rs 1.37 crore last year. But the Centre has not yet responded to it.

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