AN ADULT tusker was found dead in Kalabari forest under Panighata range, around 30 km from Siliguri in North Bengal on Thursday. Officials suspect that the tusker died of injuries sustained in territorial fight with another elephant but are waiting for autopsy report to confirm the cause of death.
The area where the body was found fall on a century-old migration route along the Indo-Nepal border.
West Bengal forest department has maintained that an 18-km long electric fence set up by Nepal in the area has prevented elephants from migrating leading to increased cases of conflict and tusker deaths.
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Experts in Nepal, however, told The Indian Express that these elephant populations are “residential population of West Bengal” and reach Nepal in search of food.
Forest officials of Panighata range in the Kurseong forest division said that locals informed them about the dead elephant. Officials added that the carcass was found in the elephant corridor that stretches from trans-boundary Mechi river to Sankosh river near the Assam-Bengal border.
The migratory route along the banks of the Mechi river, which divides the two countries, has been blocked by the fence set up by the Nepal government in collaboration with different international agencies. The fence has been customised to protect agricultural fields and deter elephants.
Forest officials in Bengal, claim that trapped by the fence, the elephants are causing havoc in the northern part of the state. The state government has already written to the Centre raising the issue.
Dr Siddhartha Bajracharya, senior director at National Trust for Nature Conservation, Nepal pointed out that the fence was erected after human-elephant conflict in Jhapa district of the country had been going on for almost three decades with much loss to human life and retaliatory killings of tuskers. It was erected after “various efforts made by many agencies including trans-boundary meetings and solar electric fencing met with little success,” he added.
In an email exchange, he told The Indian Express, “At present, elephants arrive in Nepal looking for high nutrition feed such as maize and rice.
They arrive at dusk and return at dawn. The present elephant behaviour does not reflect the migration pattern. This has created a serious human-elephant conflict problem in Bahundangi area of Jhapa district. Before the fence installation, human death by elephant was around 8 persons per year and injury of 9 persons per year. Some earlier preventive measures had not been effective in preventing the mass movement of the elephants. The installation of the solar offset fence has reduced the human casualties to zero with minimal crop damage.”
Meanwhile, the cause of the death for the tusker at Siliguri remains to be ascertained. An official said, “Prima facie it seems that the animal died of injuries after fighting with another elephant. There are huge herds roaming around in this small area looking for food and competition is intense”.
“We are waiting for the post-mortem report,” S Sherpa, the divisional forest officer of Kurseong forest division, told mediapersons.