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Ganesha to Bin Laden
Published by Nidhi Gureja, Vivek Menon, Prabal Sarkar and Sunil Subba Kyarong, 01 Mar 2002
Human-Elephant conflict in Sonitpur district of Assam
Human-elephant conflict poses a considerable threat to the population of the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) that is already on the brink of extinction due to poaching for ivory, habitat loss and fragmentation. The extensive alteration of elephant habitat by human population is forcing the species to confine themselves into small pockets of land that are connected only by human settlements. Wherever humans live in the vicinity of wildlife habitats, there will be some degree of conflict, often leading due to the death of elephants

Approximately 11,000 of the estimated 25,000 to 27,000 wild Asian elephants of India occur in the North East alone. In 2001- 02, a spate of poisonings shook the conservation world. It is indeed a distressing fact that it took the deaths of at least 22 elephants to draw attention to a problem that is not limited only to the Northeast but widespread across the elephant distribution range. While government, organizations and individuals are on the international battlefield fighting the resumption of the ivory trade, the threat of escalating human-elephant conflict is a reality that is becoming more daunting day-by-day. If there was ever a time to review our conservation strategies and take a resilient stand, the time is now. A precedent has been set, elephants were killed, no person was charged, and encroachment is occurring blatantly with no seeming political will to stop it.

This report has shown an area in India where the famed tolerance has eroded changing the elephant from Lord Ganesha to Osama Bin Laden. Unless conflict situations such as this are prevented by quick, pro-active
solutions to the problems of those living in proximity to wildife, the attitude of people will necessarily change. And the losers of such a change would be the wildlife of the area, elephants being a prominent example of this.

Vivek Menon
Executive Director, WTI
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