Forest officials in West Bengal’s Bankura district have started issuing SMS alerts about the movement of elephants to prevent man-animal conflicts that have resulted in several deaths.
A person can get the information by making a ‘missed call’ to a designated number (9015181881).
The move came after chief minister Mamata Banerjee pulled up forest officials for the number of deaths caused by the elephant attacks in Bankura-West Midnapore belt.
Last year as many as 29 persons were killed in Bankura district. This year, too, five have lost their lives in elephant attacks.
Pinaki Mitra, divisional forest officer of Bankura (North) Division, said the alerts will inform people on how many elephants are present in a certain area. “We have spread the information about this number.”
The elephants are tracked by the forest department’s ground staff, who are given beats under divisions. In West Midnapore there are four divisions and in Bankura, three. The beat staff inform the division office about the number of elephants roaming in their area.
Currently, there are no migratory elephants in Bankura and West Midnapore which come from the Dolma hills of Jharkhand. However, in West Midnapore district, there are 40 ‘resident’ elephants. In Bankura, the number of similar elephants is 25.
Forest officials explained these ‘resident’ elephants don’t move in herds unlike the stray ones. Therefore, they pose relatively less danger.
In neighbouring West Midnapore district, officials, however, follow a different strategy: send bulk SMS alerts to administrative, panchayat officials, other prominent people of the area as well as the members of Forest Protection Committee (FPC), who are supposed to spread the information to the locals and other travellers.
Migratory elephants from Dolma started coming to Bengal from the late eighties in search of food. But only about 40-50 elephants used to come and stay for about three-four months. But now about 150 elephants come regularly and they stay for about eight months. With abundance of natural food in Bankura and West Midnapore, some migratory elephants also stay back and become ‘residents’.
Apart from killing people, the elephants that stray into Bengal from the Dolma hills routinely destroy property and damage crops.