With burgeoning population of elephants, there has been an increase in the man-animal (elephant) conflict with frequent killing of human beings in Kodagu. It appears as though the entire elephant population has migrated into the coffee estates in search of greener pastures.
Earlier, the elephant menace was confined to adjacent areas abutting forests but now this menace has spread into nook and corner of the entire district.
People are terrified to come out of their homes because of the fear of unexpected attack by elephants. The Forest Department is trying its best to control this menace through electrical fencing etc., but to no avail.
Elephants migrate to estates for various reasons — with change in their food habits, attraction of easy availability of different fruits, cooler ambience, lots of shade, plenty of water and many other reasons, so much so the elephants have made these estates their permanent abode.
What is the solution then? Proper fencing through rails abutting the forests, tentacle fencing, radio collaring, clearing encroachment across the elephant corridor, selective sterilisation of old bull elephants (long-term solution) and creating a separate fenced enclave for elephants covering 150-200 acres inside the forests, tranquillising elephants and moving them to these protected enclaves are many of the options.
However, what is important is the resolve and sincerity on the part of the State Government to address this serious issue and find a permanent solution.
The frequency of humans getting killed/ maimed by elephants and vehicles getting damaged has reached alarming proportions and the Government simply cannot duck the issue. The citizen has a Constitutional right to protect himself and his family against a marauding elephant and should be exempted from criminal prosecution.
It is high time the State Government constitute a high-powered committee consisting of expert retired senior Forest officials, wildlife experts and both the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests to undertake an in-depth study and come out with out-of-the-box solutions whatever may be the cost. After all, nobody can put a price on human life.
During the interim period, the Government should increase the compensation from the current Rs.10 lakh to Rs.1 crore for the loss of human life.
If this problem is allowed to continue, then the elephant menace will reach such monstrous proportions with no end in sight and spiral out of control. Sooner the Government wakes up to the problem better it is for the vulnerable and terrified citizens of Kodagu. We at the Coorg Wildlife Society will be happy to offer assistance and support to Forest Department.
– K.C. Biddappa, President, Coorg Wildlife Society, Madikeri, 17.5.2019
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