Foresters in north Bengal have undertaken a slew of initiatives to try and reduce casualties during human-elephant conflicts even though the officials admit that they are pinning their hopes on a project to revive elephant corridors to avoid conflicts.
On Sunday, 58-year-old Minu Oraon was trampled to death at Mourijote, in the Naxalbari police station area in Darjeeling district, taking the number of casualties in human-elephant conflicts in north Bengal to 15 in just one month.
A source said that following the frequent casualties, the department has taken a number of initiatives, including forming quick response teams (QRT), to mitigate the problem.
“We have formed around 30 QRTs in the foothills of Darjeeling where a herd of nearly 150 elephants are currently moving around,” said a forest official.
Around 10 patrolling vans have been engaged and a team of nearly 100 people, including forest guards and casual workers, are tracking the movement of elephant herds.
“Over 100 searchlights, crackers and a number of hand-mikes have also been given to the villagers,” the source said.
Senior forest officials, however, admit that the department is pinning hopes on a project to revive elephant corridors as a way to reduce human-elephant conflict in the region.
“Work on the pilot project has recently started and we are pinning our hopes on its success,” said an official.
The official said the pilot project has been initiated to revive the corridor between Jaldapara National Park and Buxa Tiger Reserve via Bharnobari Tea Estate in the Dooars region.
The forest department has asked a few tea companies to provide some land contiguous to the corridor.
“The idea is to develop a 5km stretch of a corridor with adequate fodder and water. The corridor will be 300-metre wide with energised fences on both sides,” said a source.
The idea is to ensure that elephant corridors are not encroached upon and the animals are discouraged from entering the villages.
In north Bengal, the elephant corridor stretches between the Mechi river, which is on the India-Nepal border, and the Sankosh river, which flows along the interstate border of Bengal and Assam.
The forest department estimates that the number of wild elephants in north Bengal is almost 600.