Demonetisation seems to have had an effect on the appetite of some wild tuskers in Assam, who broke into a shop and consumed high-value currency notes on Monday.
The incident took place at Tarajuli Tea Estate in Sonitpur district, located nearly 200 km north-east of the state capital, when three-four wild elephants entered the area in search of food. “The elephants entered the shop and consumed nearly Rs 26,000 in Rs 2,000 and Rs 500 notes kept in the cash box,” Rajendra Duggal, owner of the shop, told a local TV channel.
According to him, there was Rs 40,000 in the cash box, but the tuskers didn’t consume the bundles of notes in small denominations, including Rs 50 and Rs 10. The group left the scene after the incident.
“The incident happened around 2am. Besides damaging two houses and the shop, the elephants ingested some cash kept at the shop. No one was hurt or injured,” Sonitpur West divisional forest officer Davinder Suman told HT.
This is the third instance of wild elephants raiding the shop located inside the tea estate. But it’s the first time they broke the cash box and consumed notes.
Usually, herds of wild elephants enter villages across Assam in search of food and also to taste the country liquor locally brewed in homes. This could be the first instance of tuskers consuming currency notes in the state.
Man-elephant conflict due to factors like rapid loss of dense forests, infrastructure projects falling in elephant habitats and growing frustration of villagers due to loss of property and lives is one the rise in Assam.
Between 2006 and 2016, wild elephants killed 785 people in the state. Another set of figures by the forest department shows between 2001 and 2014, 225 pachyderms fell victim to poaching, speeding trains, poisoning, electrocution etc.
Unable to find enough resources to sustain in the old habitats, elephants venture close to villages and human settlements, damage crops and in many instances kill, maim humans.
In a bid to save themselves and their property, humans try to chase away the pachyderms with drums, sticks, spears and fire-torches. Some even resort to poisoning and electrocuting the wild animals.
Assam has the highest number of wild elephants in India. The figure has steadily climbed from 5,246 in 2002 to 5,620 in 2011. It is expected to touch nearly 6,000 when census takes place this year.