English | Dzongkha Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Sarpang DT deliberates on growing elephant menace

Karma Wangdi, Sarpang
Aug 27, 2019

Locals in Sarpang say wild elephants visiting human settlements are becoming more frequent in recent years. The issue was also discussed during the recent Dzongkhag Tshogdu although no definite solutions or alternatives could be drawn.  

Farmers have been losing their cash crops to wild elephants for years. Many public and private properties were also damaged and for some, the encounter with the animal even proved fatal.

Deliberating these issues at the Dzongkhag Tshogdu, the members called for immediate interventions by the concerned authorities. They said, as per their observation, the population of wild elephants visiting human settlements have increased this year while its attacks are extending to Thromde areas as well.

“People are spending sleepless nights guarding against the wild elephants. When night falls, people have to make noises or use fire crackers to chase the elephants away but it is of no use. The problem is becoming life-threatening and it is time to come up with some practical solutions,” Ugyen Wangchuk, Gelegphu Gup, said.

“Due to close proximity with the bordering forests and national parks, wild animals damaging the crops are frequent. And this has discouraged many farmers from growing crops,” Lachuman Rai, Senggey Gup, said.

“The forestry department has provided us with electric fences. However, some do not work properly due to a low-voltage power supply. With changing time and situation, I think it is time to increase the voltage of power used for electric fences,” Sangay Tshering, Chhuzanggang Gup, said.

The Sarpang’s Divisional Forestry Officer informed the local leaders that they can only help a community in chasing the wild elephants away. He said the local leaders should allot some fund for human-wildlife conflict mitigation projects from their gewog budget since local governments can now exercise greater flexibility in planning, budgeting and release of the money. Their capital grant also increased by 100 per cent as compared to the 11th Plan.

“The problem is not isolated to Bhutan and its people. It is not that we failed to find a viable solution. In fact, no country in the world has come up with an effective solution to keep wild elephants at bay. So for now, we should emphasise on using electric fences. People say elephant is a smart animal and it damages electric fences using dry woods. This, as far as the records show, is just a rumour,” Phub Dendup, the Chief Forestry Officer, said.

Meanwhile, locals say it has been about two years since some wild elephants started living in nearby forests of a few gewogs. They said, earlier, it was only during the summer and harvest seasons the animal would appear near human settlements.

According to forestry officials, wild elephants see Bhutan as a safe refuge due to habitat degradation and disturbances in India, blocked traditional routes and restriction to water and forage areas among others.

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