Wildlife guards to ensure smooth conduct of elections in Meghalaya

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Shillong, Mar 1 (UNI) Election officials in Meghalaya have sought the help of forest and wildlife officials to ward off wild elephants for ensuring smooth conduct of the Assembly elections on March three.

Meghalaya has an estimated 3,000 wild elephants and its East and west Garo Hills, West Khasi Hills and Ri-Bhoi districts are mainly dominated by the pachyderms. The state election department has marked several polling booths in the elephant-infested areas as 'sensitive'.

In certain pocket areas, forest guards have been deployed to prevent any attacks from elephants, Joint Chief Electoral Officer S Kharlyngdoh told UNI here.

He said 194 booths, mostly in the Garo hills region bordering the porous Indo-Bangla border, had been identified as 'sensitive' to frequent tusker attacks.

In inaccessible areas, election officials have sought the support of tribal villagers to counter the wild elephants with drums and cymbals, besides using tame elephants to calm their pachyderm friends, wildlife official D Sangma said.

''Wild elephants can pose a threat to voters and poll officials in certain areas with herds coming down from the hills in search of food and local brew,'' tribal village elder Sengran A Sangma said.

During the past five months, ten wild Asiatic elephants were electrocuted in the Garo Hills and Ri Bhoi districts when they came in contact with high-voltage electric poles.

In January, a mother and son duo was trampled to death at Darugri village in West Garo Hills district.

However, the candidates, whose political fortunes were at stake, are least bothered of possible threats.

''The elephants are very sensible animals and we don't expect them to disturb our democratic process,'' Garo National Council candidate Clifford R Marak said.

UNI RRK DPM/src1406

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