Sadiya and Margherita subdivisions in Tinsukia district in Upper Assam have recently witnessed a sharp rise in man-animal conflict, mainly as a result of wandering elephants and leopards.
“A herd of elephants has been creating havoc at Duamara tea estate (in Margherita subdivision) for the last three days, entering the residential areas. We are trying to stay indoors but some of us have to go out to work. We remain anxious till they come back in the evenings. We can’t take our cattle out to graze. Several calves are missing too,” Chakra Tanti, a resident of the tea estate, told The Telegraph on Friday evening.
The residents of Nazirating and adjoining villages under Margherita also spoke of seeing leopards and elephants.
Sohan Tanti of Panikhowa Gaon said, “On Wednesday night, a leopard took away my two goats and killed them just 200 metres from my house. We have also seen a leopard moving about with a pair of cubs.”
Mritunjoy Bora, a resident of Sadiya, said, “For the past couple of days, we have been spending sleepless nights as elephants come out of the forest and wreak havoc. Last year, we were troubled by floods and now its elephants.”
Devajit Moran, secretary of Green Bud Society, an NGO which works for wildlife and conservation, said, “This is happening due to shrinking forest cover. Recently, we recovered an Asian barred owlet and a hornbill, which we later released in dense forests.”
A forest official said, “Whenever we get complaints of animals entering human habitats, we set up cages, capture animals and release them in dense forests.”
Tulya Chetia, a teacher, said, “Deforestation, earth-cutting and extension of residential settlements and croplands have reduced the natural habitat of animals, forcing them to wander about in search of food and shelter.”
According to government reports, since 2010, 761 people and 249 elephants have died in man-animal conflict.
In Goalpara district, a herd of elephants demolished houses in the Krishnai area near the Assam-Meghalaya border on Friday night. “The jumbos arrived suddenly and razed bamboo huts,” a resident said.
In Rohinijhar village, the residents fled but the herd entered the houses of Shanti Dalu, Kina Dalu and Biswajit Dalu and devoured food. “The forest department has failed to protect us. They arrived after the houses were demolished,” alleged a local youth.
Another herd created panic in Majjakhili Balasara village. The elephants felled the brick wall of Balasara LP School kitchen and devoured the food stored for midday meal. Last week, a school kitchen under the same range was destroyed and midday meals were devoured.
Goalpara has an anti-depredation squad comprising vehicles and specially trained staff. However, the man-elephant conflict continues unabated. Altogether 21 people have died in the conflict.