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Elephants 'sighted' in Maharashtra after 100 years

These elephants entered Maharashtra about a year ago from Karnataka reports Aditya Ghosh.
None | By Aditya Ghosh, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON OCT 24, 2006 10:12 PM IST

While the Government of Maharashtra has been allowed to add elephants in its variety of wildlife 'officially' after a century of no records of the animal in the state, the forest officials are busy inviting experts from different states to teach them and the villagers how to tackle these creatures.

Not only villagers in south Maharashtra will get a crash course on how to tackle the tuskers which have, after crossing the Karnataka border entered the state and become permanent residents, the domesticated elephants can also be looked after with better care.

The Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) has strongly recommended to include Maharashtra in the ambit of Project Elephant as the elephant population remained stable in the state for over one year.

After a debate over elephants, Maharashtra was not allowed to drive these elephants back to Karnataka. The Centre has clearly instructed the state forest department to "take good care" of the animals and have also selected a forest area where they will reside.

Suddenly, the state may now have an Elephant Reserve in the areas of Kolhapur and Sangli, after no reports of elephant for over 100 years.

These elephants entered Maharashtra about a year ago from Karnataka which the forest officials never expected. And after entering the state, they have now started living there permanently with no paucity of food. The forest officials, with no clue on management of the elephants as they have never tackled them in the past, could not help the villagers either who were equally clueless about the pachyderms.

"Generations of these villagers have never encountered wild elephants, neither there is training among the forest officers to tackle them. Everybody were at a loss and since we are not included in Project Elephant, there were no funds also to deal with the problems," said Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF) Wildlife, B Majumdar.

MoEF officials from the Centre visited the area and submitted a report recently. "A recommendation has been made to include the state in the project," he claimed.

The pachyderms were also destroying crop in the area. Now, to help the farmers, drummers from Jharkhand and West Bengal will visit the state to teach how to drive off the elephants without harming them. These groups, commonly called 'Hula' parties, are experts on diverting wild elephants from one particular track to another.

"We are inviting these people to teach both our forest officers as well as the villagers to peacefully tackle the elephants because ultimately they have to deal with them. We also have to consider the safety of the animals," Majumdar said.

The project will also mean that the domestic animals will be cared better. "The Project Elephant initiative is putting a chip behind the ear of every elephant across the country so that their identity is established. This project can now be extended to Maharashtra," he said.

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