Retired forest officer Gregory F Shullai has urged for closer cooperation and greater understanding between the Forest Department and farmers to try and curtail or at least mitigate the effects of the man-elephant conflict.
His call comes days after villagers in South West Khasi Hills resolved to kill elephants that destroyed their crops as they felt the situation was getting out of control.
Shullai told Highland Post that the conflict is not a new one. “We must keep in mind that the elephant is a scheduled animal under the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 and for that reason alone the villagers have been patiently bearing with this problem from year to year,” he said.
“Let the above statement be the underlying factor in understanding the relationship and the attempts the Department makes at mitigating the hardships felt by both the parties vis the elephants and the villagers. Neither do we want the suffering and the losses caused by the villagers to go unattended nor do we want the decimation of the elephant population. This is the dilemma the villagers and the Forest Department officials are faced with, but together there is a need for arriving at the most meaningful settlement of this regular conflict,” Shullai added.
Informing that there are about 11 elephants at the moment in the herd and with the lowered feeding ranges due to the dry season the elephants have broken up into smaller herds and spread out as they normally do from season to season, he said that is what causes the conflict.
He said that It is understandable that the natural response of the villagers would be to eliminate the conflict by suppressing the cause vis the elephants and that is precisely what the Forest Department officials have to cope with and try to prevent.
“The Department wants that the villagers should consider a radical alternative, and in a way come to accept and actually admire the conflict, which is easier said than done but they must attempt all the same. As humans, we must admit that suffering is not necessarily a mark that things are going badly and we must try to face the hardships that others cause, in this case the hardships that the elephants are causing in the area,” he said adding that towards this goal the Department has constituted eight village defence squads in Mawpyllun between Phudkroh and Ranikor.
He also pointed out that affected farmers were allocated ex gratia compensation of Rs 12.34 lakh in 2022-23 but more than Rs 10 lakh was yet to be received by the intended beneficiaries.