Lift ban on elephant catching to curb man-jumbo conflict- Wildlife experts

Updated on Oct 17, 2020 05:02 PM IST

Some wildlife experts have argued that the elephant population in the country is increasing beyond forests’ capacity to house them.

Man-elephant conflicts have risen over the years due to the shrinking habitat of the tuskers, argue some experts.(PTI Photo)
Man-elephant conflicts have risen over the years due to the shrinking habitat of the tuskers, argue some experts.(PTI Photo)
Hindustan Times, Lucknown | ByOliver Fredrick | Edited by Abhinav Sahay

The rapidly rising graph of man-animal conflicts and consequent fatalities have not only left UP’s wildlife experts but also lone elephant catcher Kamaal Sheikh, worried. Expressing concern over the scenario, the experts and foresters have recommended elephant-catching as the best possible way to curb the menace and have also approached the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEF) demanding lifting of the ban on elephant catching, also known locally as ‘mela shikaar’ and ‘khedda’, a dying art.

“No doubt, we have excelled in saving elephants, as a result of which the elephant population in the country is set to cross the mark of 30,000 (according to MoEF). Despite having belonged to a generation of forest officers, who devoted their life to the protection of wildlife, I believe that now it’s time to think and re-think if our forests are ready to handle such a huge population of elephants,” asks a letter written to the Central ministry by RS Bhadauria, a retired officer of the Indian Forest Services (IFS).

He says it is time to check the fast-increasing population of elephants, which he claims will also minimise man-elephant conflicts. Bhadauria is ex-principal chief conservator of forests and former chief wildlife warden of Uttar Pradesh.

Bhadauria also says the wild elephant population has crossed the threshold limit and, as a result, elephants often enter into human habitations in search of food.

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As per the data recently released by MoEF, at least 500 people and 100 elephants are killed every year due to man-elephant conflicts.

“Indeed, the figure is depressing. And it is for the same reason that I believe that the government should lift the ban from elephant catching,” says Bhadauria, who has also served as a volunteer forester for the last 24 years post retirement in 1996.

Bhadauria says catching elephants is perhaps the sole solution to the problem. “Castration of such huge creatures is out of the question. Hence, catching is the only possible way to check elephant populations in jungles. Once captured, the wild elephants should be tamed and put to different uses in various departments, similar to what the forest department does,” Bhadauria further argued.

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Bhadauria’s letter to the MoEF further recommends reverting back to former system of capture, training, taming and reopening private ownership of elephants, allowing riding them in zoos, and their export to zoos abroad where there is a great demand for Asian elephants, because it trains better and quicker than African elephant.

UP’s lone elephant catcher Kamaal Sheikh, too, echoed similar views, saying lifting the ban on elephant catching-- imposed in 1977 under Wildlife Protection Act 1972-- will not only keep a check on the increasing population of elephants, but will also revive an over 3000-year old art in India.

“I am sure, the government would give a thought to it, which in return would keep the population under control and revive the dying art of Mela Shikaar,” says Kamaal Sheikh, who is well versed with the rare art of elephant catching.

Mahendra Singh, who headed UP’s last elephant catching operation in UP in 1977, says, “I strongly believe that the government should assess the carrying capacity of the forest area and should allow elephant capture in the areas that are overpopulated. Also, it should find out the demand of elephants in different sectors in order to accommodate the elephants captured from the forest area.” Singh is a former wildlife warden of the forest department, UP.

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