December 28, 2016
Even as man-animal conflict is on the rise in most parts of the country, the Valparai plateau in Coimbatore district, with zero fatalities in 2016, has once again proved that better understanding of the issue and collaborative efforts can address it effectively.
The plateau, which houses more than 70,000 residents (2011 census) and a healthy population of up to 120 elephants, has kept fatalities to zero after a similar feat once in 2013.
All this was possible because of the successful implementation of the Elephant Information Network (EIN), which with contributions from members of the Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF), Tamil Nadu Forest Department, local cable TV operators, BSNL and local people, gradually brought down fatalities on both sides.
M Ananda Kumar, scientist at NCF, who has been studying conflict in the region for more than 20 years, said that the plateau has recorded on average three human fatalities between 1994 and 2002.
The EIN system works in three dimensions involving different stakeholders. “When someone sees elephants, they pass the information to the network and the message is then spread using the local cable TV; sent as text messages to select people (more than 30,000 people are connected via text messages) in areas close to where the elephants are, and alert indicator towers operated by connected mobile phones,” he told Covai Post.
Alert indicator towers were installed at specific places after studying elephant movement patterns and the landscape.
However, even after implementing the EIN, fatalities are not completely ruled out in the area. According to sources, out of the 20 fatalities that occurred after the research commenced in 2002, most of them occurred because of lack of information about the presence of elephants in the area. The numbers have declined even further after the implementation of EIN in 2011, from whence only five persons have died of reported elephant attacks.
Lauding the joint efforts of various departments, P Saraswathy, Health Visitor at Valparai Government Hospital, said that by knowing the presence of elephants through texts and television scrolling, people were able to avoid encountering elephants directly.