Bengal villagers adopt unique approach to keep elephants at bay

Kolkata, Mar 24 (IANS): Residents of a village in north Bengal have adopted a unique approach to keep wild tuskers from entering the boundaries in search of food and thus avoid human-elephant conflict (HEC).

The residents of Latabari village under Kalchini development block in Alipurduar district, where HEC is quite common, have started keeping some favourite tusker food at the entry point to the village for quite some time now.

As reported by the local villagers, the initiative has worked miracles as the tuskers being satisfied by the food do not try to infiltrate in search of food and create havoc, a feature which was quite a frequent event in the recent past.

"The villagers of late have been stocking whatever agricultural products they produce at the entry points to these villages. It can be anything from a few kilograms of paddy or a few pumpkins, which has worked miracles. The state forest department is doing a case- study in the matter and considering starting an awareness campaign on this count in other pockets of West Bengal both in North Bengal and South Bengal which are prone to HEC," a department official said.

When contacted, the former principal chief conservator of forests in West Bengal Atanu Raha told IANS that this is a very old practice followed by some tribal villagers in North Bengal which the residents of his particular village panchayat have revived.

"This practice of reserving a portion of their agricultural produce for the elephants and stocking them at the entry points to the villages was prompted by a religious feeling that being satisfied by that food the elephant God will not enter the villages and create havoc. But slowly as people started becoming selfish that practice faded out gradually. It is heartening to hear that the residents of this particular village panchayat have resurrected the old practice and I hope that residents of villages elsewhere which are prone to HEC adopt the same approach," Raha said.

He also claimed that there is a scientific reason behind this approach which involved elephant psychology.

"First, these elephants are excellent food managers. They know that they can compensate for the daily food requirement of around 300 kg of jungle flora with just 50 kilograms of paddy. So rightly these villagers are stocking items like paddy or pumpkins at the entry points since these food items satisfy the elephants most," Raha added.

Secondly, he said, often elephants invading jungle-adjacent villages, destroy more crops than they actually consume.

"In addition to that elephant invasion involves collateral damages like destruction of the shelters of the villagers. So, if these tuskers get their choicest food at the village entry points, they will avoid entering the villages," Raha added.


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