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PALAKKAD: The straying of wild elephants into human habitats has become a menace for locals residing in many parts of India. Acres of cultivated land were also damaged. Recently two locals were killed by elephants.
The Forest Department and the Railways had put up Electric fencing along a 20-kilometre stretch as a large number of elephants had died after being hit by speeding trains. As a result, no deaths have been reported on the railway lines for the past year.
However this has become a menace for the locals as following the effectiveness of Electric Fencing, more fencing was erected. It’s due to the blocking of their routes that the elephants are straying into the agricultural land and coming into contact with human habitation.
This is a clear indication where ad hoc decisions and improper planning which ignore the needs of stakeholders in the conflict should be avoided and all participants, human and wildlife, must be considered to achieve a holistic solution to a conflict situation. For example, in establishing the location of the fences, the elephants’ breeding behaviour and migratory pattern should be considered in addition to the requirements of the local population.
Given their huge food and water requirements, (approx. 150 kg per day, Elephants eat 17 hours per day) migratory behaviour, long life spans, it is inevitable that free-ranging elephants raid crop fields. This indicates that the establishment of electric fencing should be linked with a comprehensive land use planning exercise where elephant habitats (i.e. park areas) should be grouped and interconnected via elephant corridors. The habitat should then be enriched and fenced. Therefore, electric fencing should not be seen as a medium-term solution but as an integral part of a long-term holistic solution package.