The elephant herd that came to Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli about 50 days ago has posed a new challenge to the Forest Department officials with some of them entering the tiger-dominated landscape of Bramhapuri forest division in Chandrapur district on Wednesday night.
“On Thursday night, about nine elephants crossed over to Bramhapuri side around 9 pm and caused destruction of some agricultural fields. A lot of people had gathered there but we called police and controlled then. The elephants later went back to the Wadsa side in the early morning hours,” said Bramhapuri Deputy Conservator of Forest Deepesh Malhotra.
Bramhapuri is situated across the Vainganga river that marks the boundary of Chandrapur and Gadchiroli districts.
The herd, believed to have travelled to Gadchiroli through Chhattisgarh from Orissa, has 24 members, including four calves. They had been staying in the Dhanora tehsil forest in north Gadchiroli since their arrival but had of late moved to the Wadsa division towards west Gadchiroli.
Both Wadsa and Bramhapuri forest divisions are already grappling with intense man-tiger conflict. The arrival of elephants is seen by the Forest Department as a new challenge.
“It certainly is worrisome. We have to be very watchful of their movements. We can’t predict anything about whether they will stay longer in this part but will have to be prepared for it,” said Malhotra.
He, however, added, “we don’t think the elephants would stay in Bramhapuri since it is a patchy forest. Elephants need good thick forest with lot of bamboo, which is their favorite food. Bramhapuri has very little bamboo. Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve has a lot of bamboo but to get there, the elephants will have to cross a lot of human-dominated landscapes, roads, rivers, etc, which they are unlikely to prefer.”
Asked about a possible interplay between tigers and elephants, he said, “tigers co-exist with elephants in many parts of the country. But tigers here are not used to presence of elephants. So, what kind of interplay would be there between the two will be a matter to watch out for.”