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Forest dept successful in cutting down human-tusker conflicts

Forest dept successful in cutting down human-tusker conflicts

Kolkata: The state Forest department has made a significant achievement in bringing down human deaths resulting from conflict with elephants across the state.

Statistics recently compiled by the department has revealed that the number of persons killed in human-elephant conflict, which was 89 in 2014-15, has come down to 52 in 2018-19. The number of persons injured in connection with jumbo attacks has also dropped drastically from 102 in 2014-15 to 33 in 2018-19.

The fall in the number of deaths has been more or less the same in both North Bengal and South Bengal forests.

There have been instances when the jumbos had entered villages adjoining forest areas and caused havoc at farmlands, resulting in damage to crops. "However, strong vigil from Forest department officials has also resulted in improvement, with crop damage caused by the pachyderms being much less. 8,340 hectares of farmland was damaged in 2014-15, which has come down to 416 hectares in 2018-19," a senior official of the Forest department said.

The damage caused by elephants to village huts has also fallen from 4,357 to 336 in number, in the last five years. "Fire torches are used to scare away the animals but there has not been a single case of inflicting torture on the animals," the official added.

The Forest department has been constantly undertaking measures to address the issue of human-elephant conflict. Habitat improvement for the jumbos, regular awareness generation campaigns, rapid response force of the department, regular training of staff etc. are some of the steps that have been taken.

"The Airavat vehicles equipped with state-of-the-art equipment for better management of conflicts between elephants and villagers living near forests that were launched in September 2017, have also yielded good results," the official said.

The vehicles are GPS-enabled and have space to keep tranquilliser guns, which are needed to control marauding elephants.

The department is also maintaining liaison with the Railways and holds meetings every month to prevent elephant deaths on railway tracks, which still pose a major concern. Till December 2017, as many as 30 elephants had died in Bengal after being hit by speeding trains in the last five years.

"We are trying to use technology in rail tracks to curb jumbo deaths. Three censor-based technologies- seismic, acoustic and infrared, have been exhibited in detail at a national level workshop in Chalsa in November last year. The technology can be interlinked with artificial

intelligence to track movement of tuskers or other animals along rail tracks," the official added.

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