Thursday, 5 August, 2021

The Jumbo Migration

A few days ago, a herd of wandering 15 elephants in China hit the headlines of the media across the globe. Around this time, Nepal witnessed the similar sight of migrant elephants wandering and entering Nepal from India. On June 10, a herd of around 40 to 45 elephants entered Bardiya district of Nepal from across the border. The elephants, including their calves, entered the Shiva Community Forest in the district through Khata Wildlife Corridor from Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh of India. The seasonal migration of the largest living land animal from the southern neighbouring country is not new but it is a rare scene this time to view such a large herd of elephants entering Nepal possibly for the first time after 1994.

A dozen or so elephants migrate from India to Nepal every year. This year, this is the second time within two months that the elephants moved to Bardiya from the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. According to wildlife experts, when the monsoon approaches, elephants from India move to Bardiya National Park and surrounding areas through Shiva Community Forest. After adding the number of elephants that entered the park, the tally of the wild animal in Bardiya has reached tentatively 100 to 120. Nepal has an estimated elephant population of 100 to 150. Conservation programmes have helped in the thriving of wildlife population but a number of problems have also cropped up. Human-animal conflict is a burning problem. We hear and read of the news reports of animals being killed as well as people being killed in wildlife attacks. There are predation of domestic livestock, crop raid by rhinos, man-eater tiger killing people and endangered species being hunted and poached.

The country loses two to three elephants every year as they are killed in retaliatory actions by man. It means the country is losing two per cent of its elephants annually. People take retaliatory actions because wild elephants destroy houses, kill people and destroy crops. However, this is not the solution of the problem. Rampage unleashed by wild elephant is a matter of concern in Nepal. Some animals enter the settlements, raze the houses, drink alcoholic brew and go mad. They are sweet toothed and thus repeatedly raid the sugarcane fields. Different methods have been applied to chase away these jumbo animals but they have not proven successful. Creating electric fences, attacking with spears, burning of chili powder, digging deep pits are some of the methods used. This seems to be basically a problem related to shrinking habitat and lack of food in the wild.

Crop growing in fertile Terai plains in Nepal attracts flocks of wild elephants from across the border. In the ensuing encounters, both animals and people lose lives. The country has only 5.4 per cent of the elephant’s historical habitat. Most of their habitats have been encroached upon by human beings for their settlements and agricultural purposes. Experts need to carry out comprehensive study on the rising human-animal conflict, particularly the terror created in human settlements by wild elephants coming from across the border in India. Measures need to be devised to solve this problem so that people can live with a sense of security.