Man-elephant conflict over territory in Uttarakhand – Experts

Dehra Dun : Though concerned wildlife wardens have signed a death warrant for the wild elephant that was declared a rogue recently, pachyderm experts at the Indian Wildlife Institute here confirm that wild elephants are normally docile by nature and attack only when disturbed in their natural environs.

Elephant grazing

As per the studies that they had undertaken earlier of the region falling in the Rishikesh belt, where the tusker who has taken five lives in the recent past and is now under a death sentence is operating, it has been confirmed that the area was a normal habitat for wild elephants while moving from one forest range to another.

But over the years human settlements had taken over and destroyed these forest tracts where the wild elephants once roamed freely.

Their study also confirms the fact that rather than preserving the forest corridors that the wild elephants used while on their traditional migration route from one forest range to another, man cut these forests and encroached upon them.

Helped by politicians keen on developing vote banks, their houses were regularized over the years and the residents started literally attacking the elephants that came to the region, where they once roamed freely.

It is a well known fact that decades earlier, the wild elephant herds migrated from the Corbett National Park to the Lal Dhank forests in the trans-Ganga area to the Motichur Sanctuary, on to the Rajaji Sanctuary and crossed the Yamuna to the adjoining forests in Paonta Sahib area of Himachal Pradesh.

This ensured that they got the required fodder from the forests and did not have to raid village fields in search of food.

However, these traditional migration routes have been broken because of various development projects that have come up and also by encroachment by man who have made residential colonies therein.

What is more the large number of vehicles that ply in these sanctuary areas create sound pollution that is also disturbing the pachyderms who are used to quiet in their natural habitat.

Old-timers here recall that when the railway line to Dehra Dun was laid during the British period, it passed through the Motichur sanctuary.

The drivers of the engines were given strict instructions to ply at a very low speed so that animals, specially elephants were not killed while crossing the tracks.

This was followed in letter and spirit, but over the recent years the norms have been thrown to the wind, a result of which has been that a number of wild animals, including elephants have been killed while crossing the track by speeding trains.

Asserting that change was visible in the habits of the wild animals in general and the elephants in particular because of the increased decibels of sound pollution, due to trains and vehicles plying in the sanctuary areas, wild life experts said that the forest authorities should restrict the movement of vehicles in the forests so that the natural animal instincts are not disturbed.

Meanwhile wild life lovers held a demonstration at Gandhi Park to protest against the decision of the forest authorities to shoot the elephant, demanding that it be translocated from the Dhabiwala area to some other forest range where there is minimal human interference.

A journalist with over 40 years of experience, Jagdish Bhatt was Editor, Hill Post (Uttarakhand). Jagdish had worked with India's leading English dailies, which include Times of India, Indian Express, Pioneer and several other reputed publications. A highly acclaimed journalist, he was a recipient of many awards Jagdish Bhatt, aged 72, breathed his last on 28th August 2021 at his Dehradun residence.

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