Man-elephant conflict falls sharply around Corbett as Covid-19 lockdown stops traffic
There has been a significant reduction in man-elephant conflict around the Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand mainly because traffic has reduced to a trickle due to the lockdown to check the spread of coronavirus, say experts and locals.
Experts say that elephants can now cross roads easily without running into traffic or human beings in animal corridors.
AG Ansari, a wildlife expert who lives in the Corbett landscape said that due to reduced human interference in the protected area and nearby animal corridors man-elephant conflict has significantly reduced.
“What we have seen so far since the imposition of lockdown is that man-elephant conflict, especially that used to happen due to traffic has reduced a lot. Villagers now tell us that they don’t even realise when an elephant passes through a corridor without any disturbance to human settlements,” said Ansari.
He added that behavioural changes are being noticed in elephants since the lockdown was imposed.
“Earlier while an elephant would cross through a corridor, there would be heavy traffic with some people trying to come close to the animal, which would irritate it and eventually lead to conflict; that has significantly reduced now and we can see behavioural changes in them,” added Ansari.
Parag Madhukar Dhakate, Uttarakahand’s chief conservator of forests (CCF) for the western circle in the state also said that the reduced anthropological pressures have helped in the reduction of conflict.
“Due to reduced anthropological pressures, elephants are moving freely without any disturbance which is why they are also not disturbing humans. We are also continuously monitoring the whole landscape to see for changes in the behaviour of animals in pre and post-lockdown period,” said Dhakate.
The official said that the data is being collected with camera traps at different locations on the national highway that cuts through the Corbett landscape to study conflict cases pre and post-lockdown.
He said that the camera traps are also helping the forest department to keep an eye on anti-social elements trying to enter the forests during the lockdown.
“Along with continuously monitoring the health status of animals, like any animal being injured which gets captured in the cameras, they also act as a psychological deterrent for anti-social elements who might try to enter the forests despite the lockdown for illegal activities,” said Dhakate.
Last November, a wild elephant killed a 52-year-old man after pulling him out of a bus near Corbett Tiger Reserve in Mandal forest range in Nainital district. The bus was going to Bageshwar from Ramnagar.
The Corbett landscape is estimated to have over 1,400, say forest officials.
The elephants regularly create commotion around the highway which they have to cross to reach the Kosi river. The crossings often bring them in conflict with human beings and lead to elephants attacking vehicles. There have been several instances when tourists have fled from their vehicles to save their lives.
Elephants sometimes also attack vehicles for food items on the 25-km road stretch in Ramnagar area near the Corbett Tiger Reserve. The forest department had forbidden vehicles laden with food items to stop on this stretch of the road.