Elephant corridor being considered for upper Assam

JORHAT, Jan 5 – A herd of wild elephants roaming over the chaporis of river Brahamaputra has lost one of its males inside the Panidihing Birds’ Sanctuary a few days ago. It was a rather premature death for the 20-year-old pachyderm. The forest department suspects that the elephant died due to poisoning, but the real cause will come to the light only after the forensic report is received.

When contacted, JM Kuli, Conservator of Forests, Upper Assam Division, told this correspondent that as many as 587 wild elephants have been dwelling in the upper Assam districts. More than 30 elephants died in various incidents during the last three years in the greater area. As the number of elephants increased gradually, their natural habitat was not enough to shelter all of them, he said.

He further said that it was a rare case in which an elephant died of poisoning in the sanctuary. The wild elephants in upper Assam districts die mostly in incidents like man-elephant conflict, train accident, infighting, slipping into ditches and such other accidents.

“The changing food habit of elephants taking shelter in the chaporis of Brahamaputra has also increased man-elephant conflicts,” said another forest department official. “The elephant which died in the Panidihing Bird Sanctuary might have consumed poison or pesticide after eating rice stored in the granaries of the neighbouring villages,” he observed.

It is pertinent to mention here that the forest department has been undertaking various schemes to reduce man-elephant conflicts in the State. The department, in association with district administrations, provides compensations to the victims of the wild-elephants.

Conservator of Forests Kuli further said, “We are trying to generate awareness among the people through various programmes, eco-development camps, workshops and seminars about the situation in the affected areas”.

On the possibility of a permanent solution to the problems created by the wild elephants living in the area, he said the forest department has undertaken various schemes in the upper Assam districts for improvement of elephant habitats. The department has also identified a corridor in upper Assam through which elephants move, but it will take time to create a complete elephant corridor through afforestation, he said.

“It will indeed be a Herculean task to create the corridor through the human-inhabited land,” the Conservator of Forest told this correspondent. The department is still experimenting with the idea of an elephant corridor to find a permanent solution to the problem, he said. The department is mulling conducting an elephant census in Assam during the month of February this year, he informed.