While instances of wild animals entering human habitation remain unabated, the Forest Department has taken a few smart moves to mitigate the problem.
In one such step, a WhatsApp group that has more than 200 members, including farmers and foresters, is helping the Forest Department by providing real time alerts from villages across the district on the movement of wild animals in human habitations and agricultural fields.
According to S. Ramasubramanian, Conservator of Forests (Coimbatore Circle), the WhatsApp group for farmers was one of the successful methods introduced by the department in Coimbatore to handle man-animal conflict.
“Farmers who are members of the group alert on any instance of animal movement. Forest range officers are also members of the group. Upon receiving an alert, our staff will be deployed at the spot to handle the issue. Farmers’ associations have extended support to the initiative,” Mr. Ramasubramanian said.
In the last one year, nearly 60 villages in Coimbatore faced instances of elephants straying into farmlands in the Coimbatore division. Villages along areas such as Mettupalayam, Thudiyalur, Anaikatti and Booluvampatti and Madukkarai especially in Sirumugai, Mettuppalayam, Periyanaickenpalayam, Coimbatore, Booluvampatti and Madukkarai forest ranges come under the conflict zone.
In the last three years, wild elephants made more than 1,000 raids in agricultural fields and human habitations in the division. Among the affected, more than 20 villages are about three to five km away from the forest boundary.
The main reasons for elephants straying into farmlands were identified as crop pattern along the forest fringes, cultivation of crops that attract elephants, conversion of forest lands for commercial purposes, converting agricultural lands to house sites along the forest fringes, construction of institutions very close to forests, presence of places of worship/religious importance close to forest, and possible behavioural change in elephants.