CHENNAI: After tasting success in mitigating human-elephant conflicts in Valparai, wildlife scientist Anandkumar and his team from the Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) have now expanded their mission to minimise the risk in the Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve.
“We tell villagers to be tolerant and resolve the negative human-elephant conflicts,” says Anandakumar.
The team, along with Forest Department officials, is planning a visit to 26 villages around Velamandi reserve forest area near Sathyamangalam. Spread across 130 sq km, Velamandi also comes under the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve, home to an estimated 12,000 pachyderms. It is also inhabited by 30,000 villagers, most of whom are subsistence farmers growing cucumber, banana, jasmine, tobacco and other crops.
“The villagers have been reportedly facing problems from elephant herds entering their farmlands and destroying crops. We have already begun our campaign there,” Anandakumar says.
After the conflict hotspots are identified, villagers would be provided Elephant Information Network (EIN), an early warning system that alerts them about the pachyderms’ movement through SMSs, local television and red-light indicators.
Anandakumar was awarded the prestigious Whitley Award, known as the ‘Green Oscar’, last month in London for developing this system.
“We have received complaints from people, but there is a lot of mismatch in the flow of information between villagers and officials. We have taken the last two years’ records of man-animal conflicts in the area. We will first identify the problem hotspots. In the next stage, we’ll look if there is a repetition in the pattern. Accordingly, we will take the further course of action ,” he told Express.
He further adds, “We are looking at spatial and temporal characteristics, where we will be able to know the location, size, population, land pattern, time of interaction as well as type of crops. This will help us understand the main reason behind the conflict. However, the process may take some time.”
The wildlife scientist feels that villagers need a clear perspective about the situation. “They need to get an idea about why and how to tackle the problem. The problem of man-animal conflict can be solved if one delves into the root cause. We’ll call the villagers for a meeting on this,” he says.