How does one prevent wild elephants from venturing into human habitation in search of food and creating havoc?
Try giving them adequate food and water in their natural habitat. In an experiment aimed at curbing man-elephant conflict, the Uttarakhand forest department has launched an operation to culture and plant bamboo – a favourite food item of pachyderms and digging up water holes in reserve forests of the state.
Started two years ago in the Lansdowne forest division, which has 180 wild elephants as per the latest census, the project has led to a decrease in incidents of pachyderms coming out of forests and damaging crop in fields located close by.
“Bamboo is an important food for elephants. Since the Lansdowne range has a large number of wild elephants and the area is traditionally rich in bamboo, we decided to start the project there,” said Rajendra Singh, conservator, Shiwalik Forest Circle.
With a focus on providing sufficient fodder to elephants within forests, the department started culturing old bamboo clumps and planting fresh ones in 2006 with help from the Uttarakhand Bamboo Board.
In the past two years, the department has cleared old and damaged plants and created space for the growth of new shoots in nearly 25,000 bamboo clumps in the area besides planting seeds in hundreds of hectares. Two water holes have also been dug up on routes frequented by pachyderms.
“The efforts have benefitted the department, people residing near reserve forests and the elephants as well because there has been a significant decline in instances of elephants coming out of forests in search of food and damaging crops,” said Nishant Verma, DFO, Lansdowne.
“We are planning to start similar initiatives in Rajaji and Corbett. In higher reaches, ‘ringal’ a smaller variety of bamboo, is being planted to benefit animals like musk deer and pheasants,” said STS Lepcha, CEO, Uttarakhand Bamboo Board.