How SMART Jumbos OUTSMART Forest Staff
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How SMART Jumbos OUTSMART Forest Staff

May 26, 2021

Elephants cross Railway track barricades with ease and dexterity  

Mysore/Mysuru: You may have heard that elephants are among the smartest of all animals and these elephants proved it when they managed to cross the Railway track barricade that was between its way from the forest to villages where juicy crops are readily available to eat. 

The entire escapade was captured on CCTV cameras installed  by the Forest Department. This move by the elephants has created a new headache to the Department as the sturdy elephant barrier too is proving to be a futile exercise as the smart pachyderms have devised new ways and means to enter the human habitat, creating further human-elephant conflict.

The two incidents occurred at Bandipur Tiger Reserve and at Dubare Range Reserve Forest in Kodagu and the smartness of the jumbos has perplexed the Department officials. 

In the first incident that occurred at Omkar Range of Bandipur, an intelligent tusker crawls like an Army soldier to cross the barricade. The 41-second video shows the tusker bending its forelegs and hind-legs and with its tummy on the ground, the elephant inches towards the other side of the barricade, patiently.

The second incident occurred at Valnoor-Thyagathoor Reserve Forest near Kushalnagar where the 39-second video shows an even more intelligent female elephant aged between 30 and 40 years crossing the barrier cross-legged. It first put out its right foreleg and then left. 

In a crossing position, the elephant managed to get its bulky body out. It then with ease crossed the hind-legs. Its movement was closely watched by two male elephants that followed the female. After the successful feat, the iron hurdle was crossed and the elephants ran towards vegetation. Both the videos have gone viral on social media. 

Trench, electric fence futile

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First, as an elephant control measure, the Forest Department dug trenches along the fringes of the forests and the intelligent beings used to push mud with its foot. This continuous work by the herds at many places reduced the depth of the trenches, enabling the elephants to smoothly cross over. 

Next the Department used electric fences. However, the exceptionally smart animal carefully pushed down the wooden poles or hit the poles with dry tree logs and used to cross over the other side without touching the electric wires. Some elephants ingeniously used to lift one wire of the electric fence with its tusks and make it come in contact with the above wire so that the fuse can go off. This method too proved futile. 

Then came the Railway track barricades, where old rail tracks were fixed, cut and installed as barricades. Gaps were created to prevent bulky bodies from passing through the fence. The fences came up along the fringes of many reserve forests and Tiger Reserves after more than Rs. 500 crore was allocated from 2015 State Budget. 

Bandipur Tiger Reserve Director S.R. Natesha, Hediyala ACF Ravikumar and staff inspecting one of the spots where the wild elephants crossed over to the other side after sliding under the rail barricades.

The decision was, however, criticised by environmentalists and conservationists who argued that the fence would not help reduce conflict and instead could lead to a situation of an elephant getting stuck in them. A couple of elephants died too crossing the fences after the diaphragm of the elephants got compressed very heavily due to the pressure. 

After the latest video of elephant escapade, Bandipur Tiger Reserve Director S.R. Natesha, Hediyala ACF Ravikumar and staff visited the spot and observed the barricade and decided to put one more single line of fence to prevent further crossing. Once a path or a route is discovered by the elephants, it rarely forgets. 

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