Human-elephant conflict claims 403 lives in 5 years; escalates to a new high in West Bengal
New Delhi, June 30: Human-elephant conflict is on the rise and is currently at an all time high. In the last five years the conflict has claimed over 2,300 people in India, with West Bengal recording the maximum 403 deaths.
The human-elephant conflict in West Bengal is like a festering wound, a crisis he has been predicting for over 20 years.Between 2014-15, 391 people died due to the conflict, West Bengal recorded the highest number of death at 89, followed by Assam, which recorded 54 deaths.
In 2015-16, 108 people were killed in West Bengal, of which 78 deaths occurred in south Bengal.
In the last five years, 2,398 people have died since 2014 up to March 31, 2019 due to human-elephant conflict with West Bengal recording the maximum 403 deaths in last five years.
West Bengal was closely followed by Nagaland where 397 persons were killed by the elephants while 349 people died in Jharkhand.
Tiger-human conflict has killed 224 persons in India in the last five years with West Bengal once again recording the maximum number of human deaths in this case at 71.
As per the last census in 2017 by the Ministry, there were as many as 27,312 elephants in the country. A total of 75 elephants died in 2018 while a total of 373 elephants died between 2015 and 2018.
Rising incidents of conflicts have become a source of worry for governments, conservationists and people living close to the wild animals. Loss of natural habitat and fragmentation have been bringing wild elephants closer to human habitations, sparking these conflicts.
Moreover, the human-elephant conflict has escalated into a conflict between the forest department and villagers, as those affected turn their ire on the forest department for its inability to restrict wild elephants to the forest limits.
Over the years, measures adopted to address the issue using physical barriers, crop guarding and scaring or driving them away by throwing stones or bursting crackers have proven futile.
Human-elephant conflict is extremely stressed because of the following reasons
• Conflict related with trans-border movement of elephants from Bengal to Nepal.
• Conflict issues caused as they move through corridors outside forest that mostly pass through Tea Gardens.
• Human responses like electrocution, poisoning and forceful driving.
According to World Wide Fund for Nature, an NGO working in the field of the wilderness preservation West Bengal pays over Rs. 3 crore. / Year on elephant control measures and payment of ex-gratia relief, which comes to about Rs. 75,000 per elephant, i.e. highest in the country.