Transfers in BNP hit efforts to contain man-animal conflict

Forest department helpless in checking jumbos straying out

Transfers in BNP hit efforts to contain man-animal conflict

 Frequent transfer of officers posted to Bannerghatta National Park (BNP) and, increasing human habitat has made the Forest department helpless in checking the growing man-animal conflict. This has resulted in elephants straying out of the forests in the region, wildlife experts opine.

The BNP, the nearest national park to Bangalore, is again witnessing a serious man-animal conflict. Experts believe that the department has lost control over the matter as the officers posted here do not last long, says an expert.

The BNP park has never got a permanent deputy conservator of forest (DCF) since 2011. DCF Biswajit Mishra, who played a crucial role in reducing man-elephant conflict in BRT wildlife sanctuary was posted to BNP. But, the main reason for posting him to Bangalore was to ensure that he could be involved in the Lokayukta probe into illegal mining along with Dr U V Singh. He was transferred a year later and an assistant conservator of forest (ACF), Chandrashekar was made incharge of the park for some time until DCF R Gokul was posted. Gokhul, who was DCF at Belekeri in Uttara Kannada was here for about six months prior to his promotion as Conservator in late 2012.

Subsequently, DCF Devaraj held the post for a couple of months in  2012 until he was appointed as Executive Director, Bannerghatta Biological Park (BBP). DCF Ramanagara Takath Singh Ranawat held additional charge of BNP till recently.

“On the other hand, officers had fairly long stint at BBP and almost all of them stayed there for over a year. There is competition among the officers to take this post,” said a source in Forest department.

According to wildlife experts who have been working closely with BBP say that it is a revenue-generating post with crores of rupees coming just from sale of tickets. Dr Raju who took over as Executive Director of BBP in 2011 was replaced only recently by Devaraj. Some senior officers too admit to this fact.

But, the department officials deny that poor maintenence of park has led to the jumbo attacks.

Trenches and fences

According to City-based elephant experts, problems galore here such as severed solar power fences (SPF) and filled up elephant prevention trenches (EPT) are visible in many places in Anekal range, “The elephant is an intelligent animal which can even create a temporary bridge to cross over the trenches, in such a case it is a blessing to them if trenches and fences are not maintained properly,” he said. Pointing out that there are illegal quarries around BNP, in and around Shivanahalli, he said that this disturbs animals and ultimately they stray into human habitats.

However, the department does not agree. “It is not about maintaining fence or trenches. It is all about the straying elephants. These animals came from Thalli forests in Tamil Nadu, after reaching Kolar from Hosur and Andhra Pradesh borders,” said Takath Singh Ranawat, DCF, Ramanagara, who was incharge of BNP. According to him, the 70 resident elephants in BNP do not stray out of the park.

“The 200-sq-km park is geographically irregular in shape, 25 km long and just 0.5 km wide in many places, surrounded by human habitats. It is prone to conflict as it has been since decades,” said a top official in the department.

When contacted, B K Singh, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) rubbished allegations that transfers are affecting the maintenance of the park. “We have a good officer Karikalan in place now. I think things will be resolved,” he said.

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