Monday, 30th October 2017

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Forest steps up vigil after herd-of-100 alert

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By OUR CORRESPONDENT
  • Published 20.10.10
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Siliguri, Oct. 19: Foresters have intensified patrolling on the fringe villages of the Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary apprehending raids by a herd of 100-odd elephants in the next 24 hours.

“We have been monitoring the movement of a herd of 45 elephants, which were spotted at the Dalka and the Kalabari forests in Naxalbari block. But yesterday, we got information that another group of 100-odd animals is about to cross the sanctuary. We are apprehending that the herd may raid the paddy fields of Naxalbari block in the next 24 hours,” said Y.T. Eden, the divisional forest officer of Kurseong.

The foresters’ apprehension centred around the Bamanpokhri and Tukuriajhar ranges under the Kurseong forest division. “As most of the paddy fields are located in the two forest ranges, we are concentrating on the areas so that the elephants can be warded off before they destroy the crops,” he said.

Apart from utilising the division’s wildlife squad to stop the elephant attack, around 30 guards from four ranges — Bamanpokhri, Tukuriajhar, Bagdogra and Panighata — have been engaged, Eden said. “We are also bringing another 20 guards from the hills, who will reach the area within the next 24 hours. I am stationed at Bamanpokhri and will continue to be there till the elephants are driven away to the forest.”

The forester said the villagers were habituated to such raids by elephants, which usually start after Diwali. But this year because of the change in climatic condition, the crop is ready for harvest much ahead of the festival.

“As the region got good rainfall this year, the crop ripened before its usual time. The crops attracted the elephants before it could get harvested by the villagers. One tusker had already been electrocuted allegedly by villagers in their bid to save the crops from the animal. We are worried that if other members of the herd damage the crops, they may face the same fate,” the DFO said. “This may put us in spot.”

The Naxalbari panchayat samiti has asked the foresters to confine the elephants to the forests. “The foresters should maintain thorough patrolling in the area as this is the time when the villagers do the harvesting. They should prevent the elephants from raiding our villages,” said Amar Sinha, a member of the Naxalbari panchayat samiti.