KOLKATA: The West Bengal forest department has identified as many as 18 elephants — who had been straying into villages wreaking crops and property — to be captured and sent to rehabilitation centres.
“We had approached the central government a month ago seeking permission to catch them. We have planned to send them to rehabilitation centres,” said state forest minister Binoy Krishna Barman.
Stray elephants claimed lives of as many as 89 people across the state in 2014-2015. Across India, the toll was 391 in the same period.
According to official estimates, stray or breakaway tuskers destroy crops spread over 2,500 to 3,000 acres in Bengal every year. Already saddled with debts, the state government has to strain its coffers and shell out crores to compensate the affected farmers.
Sources said the state is planning to come up with two such centres where captured elephants could be moored.
“The two rehab and rescue centres will come up in North Bengal’s Buxa Tiger Reserve and the other in south Bengal’s Mayurjharna Elephant Reserve,” said a senior wildlife department official.
Once an elephant, usually a solitary male, starts raiding farmlands, damaging crops or taking lives, it is identified and tracked on a daily basis by ground level staff. Some distinguishing features — a shorter trunk, a puncture in the ear, tuft of hair on the tail and a broken tusk — help forest guards and villagers distinguish the rogue animal from others. “We are,however, against killing any elephant. In no way, will we allow culling of animals like we have seen in a few states,” Barman said.