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Trenches to halt jumbos

- Lemon cultivation route to reduce farmersí losses

Jorhat, April 30: The forest department has dug trenches on the periphery of Hollongpar gibbon wildlife sanctuary off Mariani town in Jorhat district to prevent elephants from straying out to nearby tea gardens and villages and cause depredation.

Mariani range officer D. Medhi told this correspondent the department has recently completed digging trenches on two sides of the boundary of the sanctuary on an experimental basis to prevent the elephants from moving out.

He said a trench each of 1km length have been dug on the northern and southern boundaries as the concentration of tea estates and villages was more on these two peripheries and this increased the depredation by wild animals, leading to deep resentment among people against the jumbos and forest staff.

The range officer said the department has plans to increase availability of food and water inside the sanctuary by carrying out plantation in areas where the forest cover was thin and digging more ponds to minimise elephants straying into nearby villages, tea estates or the Bhogdoi river.

Medhi said if the effort (digging of trenches) succeeds in bringing down the incidence of jumbos moving out of the sanctuary and causing havoc in adjoining areas in the next few months, then the same method will be applied on the other sides of the boundary.

However, the forest official said around six places, which the department has identified as corridors used by the herd to move out to nearby forests along the Assam-Nagaland border since a long time back will not be disturbed.

He said according to the advice of the chief conservator of forests (Upper Assam), J.M. Kouli, who had visited the sanctuary on November 24 last year, efforts will be initiated to encourage the farmers to take up lemon cultivation and floriculture on the fringes of the paddy fields as elephants do not damage the plantations. Medhi said assistance from the agriculture department would be sought to carry out such a plan.

The sanctuary is home to elephants, leopards, jungle cats, civet cats, mongoose, Chinese pangolin, Indian fox, barking deer, sambar and Malayan giant squirrels apart from gibbons. There are 291 species of birds in the park, including the white-winged duck.

Several incidents of leopard straying out to human habitations in recent times have added to the woes of the forest staff, with one leopard tranquillised for treatment last week and a male cub suspected to be of the tranquillised animal, rescued from a garden yesterday and sent to Guwahati zoo.

He said on April 24, a female leopard was tranquillised at a tea estate near Mariani and taken to the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation at Borguri near Kaziranga for treatment as the animal had a serious injury on its body.

The range officer said incidents of leopard straying out to villages and gardens was keeping the forest guards on their toes to prevent people from attacking them in panic.