By Sanjeeb Baruah, IANS
Bokakhat (Assam) : Chilli-bombs and firecrackers – these are the simple but effective weapons that wildlife activists are encouraging people to use to chase away marauding elephants in villages near here. The aim is to ward off man-animal conflict situations as far as possible.
Bokakhat town in Golaghat district is about 10 km from the famous Kaziranga national park in northeast India. Villages that fall on the Rajabari-Lokhowjan-Borsapori region near here have been witnessing elephant raids for the past several months.
As a result, anger against the pachyderms is on the rise.
“Almost everyday elephants come and destroy our paddy crops and homes. We have no other alternative left but to retaliate,” said a villager in Borsapori.
Dilip Deori of the NGO Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) said: “The situation is very alarming as the villagers are in a retaliatory mood. Two days ago, they seriously injured an elephant that had come to raid their paddy crops.
“Villagers hurl sharp iron spears, with the tip melted red-hot in fire, at the pachyderms. Local people call it the ‘shel’.
“Forest officials are still searching for the elephant that was injured by a ‘shel’ Tuesday night, and the deadly spear is probably still stuck in its neck,” said Deori.
The area is used by elephants to reach forests in the adjoining Karbi Anglong district and is considered an important elephant corridor.
“Earlier, the elephants used to take a different route, but now they pass through the villages here to go to Karbi Anglong. They keep changing their tracks as they always search for new areas for food,” Deori said.
Now the WTI has initiated a project to reduce the man-animal conflict. It has erected three watchtowers at prominent locations from where elephants heading for the area can be spotted and villagers can be alerted in time.
The villagers are then supposed to use firecrackers and “chilli-bombs” – balls made of chilli flakes – to chase them away.
“As part of the project, elephant movements and activities will be monitored,” Ujjal Sharma of WTI told IANS.
“Besides strengthening village protection squads, work on improving the habitat will also be taken up,” he said.
There are three more important elephant corridors close to the area – Panbari, Kanchanjuri and Burapahar – where the government has initiated work to restore the animal’s habitat.