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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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Volunteers to fight jumbo threat

Jorhat, Feb. 19: The Jorhat forest department will recruit volunteers to keep elephants away from vulnerable human settlements that are constantly being attacked by jumbos as a result of man-elephant conflict.

The plan is to constitute teams of volunteers under the Mariani range of the Jorhat division. Then, give each six-member team a searchlight, torches, kerosene oil and firecrackers. The teams will be briefed on how to assist forest department personnel and will work from dusk to dawn to keep elephants from straying into human settlements.

Sources said the forest department took this decision in view of the rising incidents of elephant herds and leopards straying out of Gibbon wildlife sanctuary and causing havoc in adjoining villages and tea gardens.

Almost every other night elephant herds come out of the forest and damage houses, granaries and paddy fields in the nearby villages and tea gardens, a source said.

Last week, a worker of Dukhlangia tea estate was trampled to death by elephants, which led to a protest by labourers who also manhandled a forest official. Police brought the situation under control. On the night of February 9, elephants damaged five labour quarters inside Cinnamara tea estate.

On the night of January 29, Mariani range office formed three special teams, supported by police and a control room, to patrol the vulnerable areas to prevent herds from attacking polling stations for the January 30 panchayat elections.

The forest department has attributed the rising number of attacks to the ever-increasing elephant population in the 20.48-square km sanctuary — from 20 to over 40 in eight years. The existing area is ideal for two to three elephants.

Though a group of six forest personnel regularly patrols the area from dusk to dawn, it is hard-pressed, as the elephants split into smaller groups. A forest department source said a long-term solution, based on a detailed study of the man-elephant conflict, was required.

The source said a proposal had been prepared to constitute 15 teams to patrol 15 areas, identified as vulnerable spots by the department, after dusk. “Already, villagers and workers of tea gardens help our men at night to chase away elephants, but now we want to organise the people as teams so that there will be better co-ordination and timely action.”

Mariani range officer D. Medhi said the plan has been prepared following a directive from higher authorities of the department in Guwahati. If funds are sanctioned, it can be implemented immediately, he said.

Medhi said the teams would be briefed on dos and don’ts to be followed if they spot the elephants. The same teams could also inform the department about leopards.