October 22, 2016
In order to bring down the casualties in the never-ending human-animal conflicts here, the Coimbatore Division of the Tamil Nadu Forest Department has come up with a new way to sensitise farmers about elephants through hoardings and pamphlets here.
With casualties increasing on both sides and the elephant population touching more than 500 in the migratory season, it was becoming imperative that people, especially farmers who live on the fringes of the forest, were sensitised on how to behave in such areas. “Most fatalities occur during the night, so it is important that farmers do not venture out at night. The pamphlets carry this sort of important directions and messages,” said District Forest Officer (DFO) S Ramasubramaniam.
The pamphlets instruct farmers to make strong huts in farmlands and keep the light on at night, to deploy young people as sentry in farmlands during the night and to not sleep in the open. “Elephants will avoid huts if the lights are on,” said a senior official from the department.
Farmers have also been asked to keep in contact with neighbouring farmers to be aware of elephant movement. Adding a long pending request from wildlife lovers, officials have also asked farmers to use crops that do not attract elephants and also to safeguard farmlands using traditional fences made of cactuses and other thorny bushes. Proper usage of solar fences and elephant proof trenches is also suggested.
“Farmers have started farming plantain, maze and coconut near the fringes of the forest, and elephants have developed a liking for this food. If they move to crops like chilly, elephants will avoid the area,” said the official.
Requesting farmers to help the Forest Department in averting casualties, the DFO also suggested that farmers inform forest officials immediately of elephant movement in farms. “Our staff is also monitoring all the ranges in Coimbatore and elephants are driven back immediately. With better cooperation from the public, we can surely bring down the casualties,” the DFO opined.
While pamphlets are to be distributed door to door, five posters are also to be kept near Narasipuram in the Bolampatti range, where more casualties are reported.
Welcoming the initiative, K Mohan Raj, an environmentalist from Coimbatore, said that the measures are helpful and suggested that government officials from other departments also be sensitised in increasing the punishment of wildlife crimes as it is also a reason for increasing conflicts.