Banana plantations counter elephant menace in Bankura village

But these trees have been planted not only for their fruits but are an innovative way devised by the residents to ward off elephants.
The banana crop acts as a buffer against marauding herds of wild elephants who periodically come out of the Sonamukhi forest to attack the standing paddy crop and grain stored in barns. Banana saplings have been planted on the other sides of the village.
"We ring the village with banana cultivation. It is a favourite with elephants which raid our village once in a couple of days for paddy. It is like a dish prepared to distract them from our paddy crop," Baneshwar Lohar, a villager, said.
Apart from providing banana flower (mocha), leaves, pith (thor), green and ripe bananas, the grown-up trees act as standing troops protecting the village, he said.
This innovative method to save the crop from elephants is catching up in nearby villages as well, villagers said.
With monsoon gone and harvest over, it is now time for the villagers to nurture the young saplings. They have been watering the plants, tending the soil and adding manure to help the plants grow quickly.

"Banana plants are a hit with the elephants. As soon as they arrive, they start munching on these while sparing the paddy fields or stored grain", Taraknath Mondal, beat officer of Barjora forest range, told a visiting PTI correspondent.
Banana plants create a creaking sound while being munched by the animals which in turn alert the villagers about the advent of the herd.
Elephants raid villages of Bankura, Purulia and West Midnapore districts at night or early in the morning for food.
"With the habitat loss in Dalma forest on the Jharkhand-West Bengal border, 72 herds of wild elephants from Dalma have stayed back in the sal forest of Sonamukhi and Barjora. They raid the villages for paddy, potato or stored foodgrain regularly," Mondal said.
"As the elephants show up on the river side, we try to chase them away by lighting torches and bursting crackers. The bright search lights also scare them," another villager, Nepal Lohar said.
"But if the elephants come in, the banana cultivation comes to our aid," he said adding the forest officials supply them bright search lights and fuel to ward off elephants.
Standing paddy crops on one side of the village where banana plants have grown has been protected from the elephants. On many occasions, when the elephants' hunger is satiated with the bananas, they simply go away.

Dhiren Chakraborty, a 60-year-old villager, said, "Earlier elephant attacks were not so frequent. For the past decade, elephants come more frequently to raid the houses for stored grain. With one push by their trunk, they flatten the weak walls of the mud houses and empty sackfulls of grain."
Villagers said they have planted banana trees at strategic locations at village entry points.
"Elephants are difficult to spot in the dark.They wait under the shade of trees for an opportune moment to raid the village. Recently they raided the village ration shop which stored foodgrain," Sonali Bir said.

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