Lockdown prompts human-elephant peace
The ongoing lockdown seems to have put on hold man-animal conflict in the Chandil forest range in Seraikela-Kharsawan district.
Not a single man-animal conflict has been reported since the lockdown was enforced on March 25 to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Chandil forest range has often witnessed ugly scenes involving elephants marauding through villages. Elephants destroying standing crops has also been a perennial worry for the forest range.
Chandil forest range officer Ashok Kumar said the closure of units brewing liquor from mahua (Madhuca longifolia) in the jungles and villages has put an end to the menace.
Mahua is found everywhere across Jharkhand. But with greater police patrolling during the lockdown, no villager is brewing liquor from mahua in Chandil.
“Mahua brewing units used to dot the jungles and its scent attracted the elephants who not only wiped out the mahua but also attacked humans. Mahua also was also stocked at homes, which spurred elephants to destroy human settlements,” Kumar said.
He reasoned that the closure of mahua brewing units had also stopped people from venturing into the jungles. “High on mahua, youths had a tendency to slip into jungles and they would come across elephant herds. Youth in drunken stupor often forget about the lurking dangers and get killed or injured,” he said.
According to the range officer, right now there are 22 elephants, including calves, who are part of two separate herds in the Chandil forest range. While one herd is anchored near the Manikui jungles, the other is at the Kalyanpur forests.
Usually, in other times, herds of elephants slip into the Chandil forest range from Bengal, Tamar block of Ranchi, and other parts of Seraikela-Kharsawan, destroying standing crops and attacking people on their path. Now, the 22-odd elephants in the Chandil jungles are enjoying their stay peacefully, range officer Kumar said.
“Villagers even take the opportunity to click pictures of elephants on their mobile phones. Such scenes present a very positive picture,” he said.
Kumar has compiled a report recently on how the lockdown has brought about positive changes in the Chandil forest range, including better air and water quality and less noise pollution.
Other Chandil foresters agreed.
“We are getting a welcome reprieve from these problems,” a forester said on the condition of anonymity. “Man-animal conflict is a huge problem. From protecting the animals and driving them safely away from human habitats to transporting the injured to the hospital and paying compensation to the kin of the victim, all these are big problems. We also have to inform the police to file FIRs. Sometimes, we become the targets of irate villagers.”