Data Focus

Every day, India loses one person to human-elephant conflict

Radheshyam Jadhav Pune | Updated on December 14, 2020

Encroachment into elephant corridors is the main reason for the heavy toll

In June, a pregnant wild elephant in Kerala’s Silent Valley National Park died after a pineapple filled with crackers offered by a man exploded in her mouth when she chomped on it.

The incident drew media attention and discussions on elephant-human conflict came to the fore once again. However, after the initial hullabaloo, the dust settled down and the conflict continues to take a toll.

 

Every day, on an average, one person — mostly a farmer — is killed in a human-elephant conflict. Of the total deaths due to this conflict in the last six years, 48 per cent have been from Odisha, West Bengal and Jharkhand. These three States, along with Assam, Chhattisgarh and Tamil Nadu, have accounted for 85 per cent of the total deaths.

Farmers across the States have been complaining of wild elephants destroying their crops, leading to heavy losses. They say there is an increase in the number of elephants entering into human settlements.

However, a report published by the Wildlife Trust of India, titled ‘Right of Passage: Elephant Corridors of India’, highlights that it is humans who are increasingly entering into the space belonging to elephants.

The report states that human settlements — and the resulting biotic pressure — and linear infrastructure such as roads, railway lines, canals and encroachments into corridor areas are a key reason for elephant entering human settlements.

Why corridors matter

Wildlife corridors are linear patches of natural vegetation that provide habitat for species that are not adapted to the surrounding habitat. These are either temporary-use areas or a permanent part of their home ranges. Corridors are important for elephant movement and to maintain a healthy population. In terms of land use, only 12.9 per cent of the corridors are currently under forest cover, compared to 24 per cent in 2005.

The Ministry of Environment told the Lok Sabha in September that no report has been received about an increase in the numbers of animals belongs to various wild species in forest areas during the last few years. This implies that these wild animals could be encroaching into agriculture fields and human habitations near forest borders due to insufficient food and water, thus posing a danger to lives.

Published on December 14, 2020

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