'Haathi Mera Saathi': Jumbos find Andhra safe haven after habitat loss in neighboring states

A particular herd of 11 is settled in forest areas near Parvathipuram-Manyam district have Nagavali river and reservoir besides sufficient food.

By Sri Lakshmi Muttevi  Published on  17 Jun 2023 7:24 AM GMT
Jumbos find Andhra safe haven after habitat loss in neighboring states.

Parvathipuram-Manyam: A video of 7 elephants entering Pujariguda village in Parvathipuram Manyam district and drinking water stored in front of the houses went viral on social media.

Many wondered if the elephants were thirsty and came in search of water. However, not many know that these elephants are regular visitors to a few villages in the surrounding areas.

The jumbos including a calf were also offered help by the locals who provided water in small buckets. Based on the information, Kurupam range forest officials reached the spot and drove the wild elephants to the nearby orchards.

These villages are located near Odisha border and are regularly seen with a herd of 7 elephants which have been seen in Parvathipuram Manyam district for the last four years.

Deputy Conservator and Vizianagaram District Forest Officer Venkatesh Sambangi said, "Elephants entering villages is usual. However, the elephant's movement has been monitored 24/7 by the trackers. They alert the locals when they enter the villages. In this case, these elephants did not come in search of water; they kept on going from place to place. In that process, they might have entered the villages and drank water."

This particular herd of 11 is settled in forest areas. There is Nagavali river and reservoir besides sufficient food. They keep moving from place to place, and at times enter villages. In a few Reserve Forests, the officials have also dug out Elephant Proof Trenches, with the idea of preventing the animals from straying into the nearby agricultural lands and human habitations.

"Every day, three teams of 30 members work 24/7 tracking the elephant movements. In case of any movement of elephants, the monitoring range officers alarm villages, local temples, railways, and the electricity department to avoid human-animal conflict," said the DFO.

Change in crop pattern:

According to forest officials, elephants started moving from Odisha to two border districts of Andhra (Srikakulam and Vizianagaram) from 2007 onwards. They usually move from State Forests in Odisha to Vizianagaram Forest Division and then migrate towards Srikakulam Forest Division.

Before 2015, the farming pattern was different. In many parts of the agricultural lands that are close to the boundary of Reserve Forests in Srikakulam and Vizianagaram. Sugarcanes, bananas, pineapple, and maize attract the jumbos. Farming communities who are cultivating close to the Reserve Forests inhabited by elephants are persuaded not to raise such crops. Instead, they can raise crops like garlic, turmeric, mulberry, castor, chili, cotton, ginger, onion, tobacco, and tea.

According to the DFO, crop damage or deaths were reported from the same villages. In Parvathipuram Manyam districts, it is only 2-3 villages that are getting affected.

Farmers in parts of Manyam and Srikakulam districts have been appealing to the forest department officials to take some scientific steps to deal with the jumbo menace and mitigate crop loss.

AP has no more than 100 elephants

Reports say Andhra Pradesh doesn't have around 100 elephants, while other states such as Kerala, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu have more than 5000 elephants. However, in the past few decades, the state's border regions have seen jumbo herds migrating from Odisha in search of food.

Reports say for nearly 200 years until the 1980s, there was no documented presence of wild elephants in Andhra Pradesh.

Due to the shrinking of their habitat in neighboring states, the elephants started entering Andhra.

Currently, the area surrounding the Parvathipuram Manyam-Srikakulam districts has three herds with 14 elephants--a herd of 4 in Palakonda, 8 in Parvathipuram and 6 migrated from Odisha (4 died in May).

According to forest officials, around 28-30, trackers have been deployed to monitor the movements of the animals. For about every 2,000 hectares, one elephant tracker is available.

Human-elephant conflict:

The cases of human-elephant conflict have led to the death of many elephants.

On June 14, 2023, three elephant calves were killed in a road accident in Chittoor district after being hit by a truck when they were crossing the road at Jagamarla cross on Chittoor-Palamaner National Highway. The truck driver has been at large since he hit the elephants. The forest officials also said that such accidents happen due to rash driving by truck drivers.

In February, a herd of six jumbos moved from Odisha to Andhra Pradesh, perhaps due to favorable conditions. However, four were electrocuted to death in Bathili, a town in Bhamini mandal of Parvathipuram Manyam district in Andhra Pradesh in May. The incident occurred when the baby elephant touched the 11KV transformer with its trunk and also moved the block a bit. While the elephant fell, the other three elephants which tried to rescue the calf too died.

In February, a wild elephant trampled a 26-year-old tracker to death at Pasukudi village in Parvathipuram Manyam district. According to the forest department officials, the man failed to escape when the animal charged at him.

A herd of four wild elephants has been creating havoc in parts of Bhamini. They have destroyed standing cotton crops over a large swath of land.

Based on the information from the locals, Laxmi Narayana, a trained elephant tracker, reached the Pasukudi village to drive them towards Vamsadhara River locality by using a fire torch. However, one of the elephants went berserk and trampled him to death.

Guidelines to address human-wildlife conflict

Efforts are being made by the Forest, Revenue, and Police officials to mitigate human-elephant conflict in the area. Prevention refers to the measures that are taken to not attract elephants to the area or to see to it that even if they come, no human being crosses paths with them.

In March 2023, Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Bhupender Yadav released 14 guidelines to address Human-Wildlife Conflict (HWC), which aim to facilitate a common understanding among key stakeholders, on what constitutes effective and efficient mitigation of HWC in India.

It is part of the Indo-German cooperation project on HWC Mitigation, which is being implemented by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) together with Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusannenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and state forest departments of Karnataka, Uttarakhand and West Bengal.

10 species-specific guidelines-

Guidelines for Mitigating Human -Elephant, -Gaur, -Leopard, -Snake, -Crocodile, -Rhesus Macaque, -Wild Pig, -Bear, -Blue Bull and -Blackbuck Conflict

4 guidelines on cross-cutting issues-

Guidelines for Cooperation between the Forest and Media Sector in India: Towards effective communication on Human-Wildlife Conflict Mitigation

Occupational Health and Safety in the Context of Human-Wildlife Conflict Mitigation

Crowd Management in Human-Wildlife Conflict-Related Situations

Addressing Health Emergencies and Potential Health Risks Arising Out of Human—Wildlife Conflict Situations: Taking a One Health Approach.

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