Location specific mitigation measures necessary

Man-animal conflict will only worsen in the future, opine experts

Location specific mitigation measures necessary

Though a tiger mauling three persons in H D Kote taluk of Mysore district was a rare phenomenon, man-elephant conflict is a common occurrence in the district, aggravated only when a herd ventures close to Mysore city.  

In December alone, two herds of elephants that had ventured into regions of human habitation in Hunsur taluk of the district were driven away by Forest department personnel. A person in H D Kote suffered injuries to his leg, when an elephant attacked him. With man-animal conflict set only to rise in the future, few mitigation measures are in place, while few others are being planned to reduce the severity of the conflict.

Experts feel that man-elephant conflicts are unique to a place and the concerned department must identify conflict hot-spots first, to come up with location based mitigation solutions.

M Ananda Kumar, wildlife scientist at Nature Conservation Foundation said that there is a serious lack of baseline information about various features of man-elephant conflict. “For any conflict mitigation measure to be fruitful, it would require local people involvement and their participation in management of conflicts between people and wildlife. In most places, there are no problem elephants but many problem locations which are responsible for occurrence of human-elephant conflict.”

Conducting his research at Valparai, a small town inside Anamalai Tiger Reserve in Tamil Nadu, he has come up with a location based solution to mitigate the conflict. A Conflict Response Unit comprising of tribal people, tracks elephants. This coupled with information from local people and forest department is displayed on local cable TV channel, covering around 5,000 families in the Valaparai plateau, on a daily basis as an early elephant intimation system.

Along with bulk SMS service in English and Tamil to alert people with about the presence of elephants, in case the pachyderms are close to human habitation. Mobile operated LED-light elephant alert indicators have also been installed in 25 locations, to signal the presence of elephants and their movements within a kilometre radius of each light. 

The mitigation measure is supported by Elephant Family, a UK based charitable
 organisation, Tamil Nadu Forest Department, GUPSHUP Enterprise for Bulk SMS service, plantation management and people of the region.

Anand said that the measure was a location based solution, that might not work on all landscapes. However, the solutions might work in parts of Karnataka, such as Alur in Hassan district and parts of Kodagu, which are in conflict with a few herd of elephants.

Armstrong fencing

With over 100 herds of elephants in Bandipur-Nagarahole region, Armstrong fencing (Rail track fence) has now been proposed. Armstrong fencing has turned out to be an effective mitigation measure at Addo Elephant Reserve in Eastern Cape, South Africa.Raman Sukumar, scientist at the Center for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science said that Armstrong fencing would be an effective measure for Bannerghatta National Park (BNP), which is similar in dimensions to the Addo Elephant Reserve.

Though Armstrong fencing is a successful mitigation measure, it is also costly, with Armstrong fencing costing up to 20,000 dollars a kilometre (Rs 12 lakh per kilometer), he said. The fencing can also work well in certain specific areas of Bandipur Tiger Reserve, he added.

Speaking on elephant trenches, he said that a lot of money was spent on trenches, that involves a lot of maintenance. Such trenches are suitable only in dry areas, where rainfall is less. Other measures should be taken in wet areas, he added.

Strengthen measures

Another conservation scientist under the condition of anonymity said that the existing mitigation measures must be strengthened rather than installing costly measures, such as Armstrong fencing. “The fencing is suitable for only small animal reserves,” he said.Man-animal conflict will only rise. Government should explore the ‘suitability’ of a measure, before going ahead and implementing the project. Plainly mimicking mitigation measures might not work, he added.

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