Elephants in Exile
Published by Rakesh K. Singh, 01 Jan 2002
A rapid assessment of the human–elephant conflict in Chhattisgarh
When elephants appear in a new political entity, such as a state, there is normally feverish political activity in welcoming Ganesha to the region. Very soon, the excitement wanes and is replaced by apathy and even sooner, this apathy turns to fear, resentment and anger as conflict with the local populace grows. What is God turns villain as soon as the potential vote bank of a politician is seen to suffer. This was exactly the scenario that took place in Chattisgarh, the central Indian state that had not seen elephants for decades.
As elephants moved into the state from nearby Jharkhand, the Chattisgarh administration went through all the phases that face elephants in exile. The Wildlife Trust of India sent one of it senior officers to do a rapid assessment of the conflict levels of the state and the results were hardly surprising. Jharkhand has been laid waste by large scale open-cast mining and the elephant migrations into more suitable and secure habitat was as a direct result of this. Without trying to alleviate the root cause, a series of band-aids were however implemented in Chattisgarh as conflict reached alarming proportions and people started getting killed. In the long run however, it is clear that only landscape level planning, land-use solutions by the neighboring states sitting down in tandem and long-term conservation measures will have any level of success.
Executive Director, WTI
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