Rising elephant incursions threaten lives and livelihoods in Chhukha

Living peacefully in coexistence with wild elephants is becoming quite difficult for a number of villages in Chhukha district. Four villages in Samphelling Gewog have been seeing an increasing number of visits from the elephants who damage houses and fields while also posing a threat to the people’s lives.

Durga Maya from Pangna Maed who is in her late sixties has just had a lucky escape. Her home was attacked and damaged by a wild elephant a few weeks ago.

Heeding to the advice from officials, she had started living at her neighbour’s place just a few days ago.

The wild animal visited her home again on Wednesday night and caused further destruction. She feels fortunate to have avoided another confrontation with the elephants.

Durga recalls the first incident when she came face to face with an elephant.

She said, “It was around 1 AM. I was sleeping and I could feel my bed and house shaking. I got up to see what was happening and I saw that it was an elephant destroying the window of the next room. The elephant ate one whole sack of rice and other edibles. It didn’t come the next night but it came again the second night.”

 Durga lives alone as all her children have relocated elsewhere. Although the reason they moved out was different, many villagers in Samphelling Gewog say they are also considering relocating due to the elephants.

Residents say encounters with elephants were rare in the past but in the past few months, it has become quite rampant.

Surjaman Rai said, “Elephants destroyed all my maize. I was planning on planting rice but I think I will not do paddy cultivation now. There are lots of fallow lands because we lose everything to elephants. It attacks people as well. Last time, it hit the wall bellow as it charged towards me.”

Similarly, Nakchu, another resident of the village said, “Electric fences helped a bit in the beginning. But now it doesn’t help. He would destroy the fence as well. We grow only rice, maize and millet and we never get to harvest it after putting in so much effort.”

The elephant menace has reportedly become serious in the villages of Pangna Toed, Pangna Maed, Pangna Bar and Sonamthang. The people have requested relevant authorities to construct concrete walls to keep out the giant mammals.

Samphelling Gup Ram Kumar Rai said, “A RCC wall is the only option we think we have to keep away the elephants. If RCC walls can be constructed, it will benefit the farmers and will also enhance security along the border.”

 According to the villagers, the elephants normally come alone or in pairs in search of food. While there have been several close encounters, there are no reports of human casualties in the four villages.

Kinley Dem, Chhukha

Edited by Yeshi Gyaltshen

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