Tackling man-animal conflict: Bengal govt plans elephant museum
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Tackling man-animal conflict: Bengal govt plans elephant museum

It will be located within the Buxa Tiger Reserve area in north Bengal.

kolkata Updated: Oct 26, 2017 14:00 IST
Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri
Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri
Hindustan Times
Elephant,Man Animal Conflict,Museum
File picture of a herd of elephants crossing a highway in Jharkhand. Herds from the neighbouring state regularly cross over to Bengal and destroy crops, property and lives.(HT Photo)

In an attempt to tackle man-elephant conflicts in the state and to eliminate unnecessary fear among human beings about tuskers, the West Bengal government has decided to set up a unique elephant museum within the Buxa Tiger Reserve area in Alipurduar in north Bengal.

Forest minister Benoy Krishna Burman told HT that its will be the first one in the country. The decision was taken at a meeting of the Buxa Tiger Reserve Conservation Foundation Trust in the first week of October.

Read: Man-animal conflict: One human dies every day in India

“I have asked the trust authorities to prepare a detailed project report and submit it to the ministry by December, following which the work for setting up the museum will start on an urgent basis. The trust authorities will also prepare a list of national and international consultants and experts in the related field, who can be contacted for guidance once the detailed project report is prepared. My aim is to make the museum fully operational by the middle of next year,” said Burman.

File picture. North Bengal is infamous for trains on New Jalpaiguri-Alipurduar route mowing down elephants. (HT Photo)

The museum will be located near the check post of the forest department in the tiger reserve.

The minister said several experts of the forest department as well as some independent ones have said that one of the major reasons of the constant man-elephant conflict is the lack of awareness among people about tuskers. The government thinks the museum can sensitise people.

Read: Man, animal conflict on the rise over living space

“This museum will definitely help in creating awareness about elephants, which in due course, might be helpful in minimising man-elephant conflict,” remarked Burman.

In the first half of 2017-18, 32 people died in the state in elephant attacks. In 2015 in the first six months of 2017-18, a total of 112 people were killed by elephants. Recently, the Bengal government acquired four special vehicles for tracking and tranquillising elephants. An Elephant Movement Coordination Committee has been formed in the state that gives updates on elephant movement through text messages.

Retired principal chief conservator of forests in West Bengal, A K Raha, thinks the proposal can contribute to lessen man-animal conflict.

Read: New wildlife plan to make people part of checking man-animal conflict

“I agree that the museum will help in creating awareness among people about the nature and habits of elephants,” said Raha. He pointed out that the project will be abe to attract tourists in the region.

Some experts have their doubts too. Former fellow of Coimbatore-based Zoo Outreach Organisation, Nibha Namboodiri, who is the first women elephant trainer in the country said that she is sceptical.

“Instead of spending crores of rupees behind such a project, the government should think on how the money can be used for elephant conservation, or for compensating the people affected by such conflicts. Setting up a museum is an easy route of addressing a much bigger problem,” she told HT.

Read: Tusker mowed down by train in north Bengal

Burman is also bullish on the project for its potential to promote tourism. “One of the focus areas of the chief minister is to promote tourism, specially wildlife tourism, in north Bengal. The museum will help us to attract tourists,” he said.

The museum will feature exhibits detailing the structure, nature and habits of elephants all over the world. From Indian and Asian elephants to African tuskers and Burmese white elephants, the museum will be a one-stop shop for resources on all types of elephants,” said the minister.

It will also have audio-visual presentation facilities about elephants worldwide.

Recently, Alipurduar has taken some steps to attract tourists in the district, One such initiative is “blue home stay”, where the homes housing the tourists will be painted in blue and white, the official colour of the Mamata Banerjee lead government.

First Published: Oct 26, 2017 14:00 IST