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One month on, as elephant herd stays put in Gadchiroli, forest dept draws up long-term plan

Presuming that the herd might not leave the area, or may even make it its new home, the Forest department is gearing up to prepare a detailed plan for the herd's peaceful stay in the area it is currently occupying.

Written by Vivek Deshpande | Nagpur |
Updated: November 10, 2021 3:03:18 am
The herd had entered Gadchiroli on October 10 and appears to have liked the area of about 15,000 hectares in Dhanora tahsil.

The elephant herd, which had entered Gadchiroli from Chhattisgarh in October, has completed one-month stay in the district and shows no signs of leaving the area.

Presuming that the herd might not leave the area, or may even make it its new home, the Forest department is gearing up to prepare a detailed plan for the herd’s peaceful stay in the area it is currently occupying.

The herd had entered Gadchiroli on October 10 and appears to have liked the area of about 15,000 hectares in Dhanora tahsil.

Five villages — Kawadikasa, Sindesur, Bhojghata, Kanhargaon Tola and Muniyalgondi — are located in the forest being explored by the herd.

Till now, barring two to three incidents, no major flash-point with humans has been reported. The last incident was reported on November 4, when the elephants came to Bhojghata village and damaged three houses. However, no major injuries have been reported so far.

Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) Sunil Limaye told The Indian Express, “We are prepared for their longer or even permanent stay if at all they choose to remain there. I have already written to the Chief Minister after visiting the place, informing him about the emerging scenario in the event of the elephants preferring to stay back and making the area their home. So far, they haven’t caused any major damage but we have distributed about Rs 1.5 lakh to the affected families, whose paddy farms were raided by the herd.”

Limaye added, “We have also drawn up a long-term mitigation plan of about Rs 1.4 crore and have submitted it to the district collector. The plan includes creation of water holes in the forest, cultivation of different plants liked by elephants as their food, creating fire lines and rolling out fire prevention measures. We will also be setting up primary response teams in the villages in the vicinity.”

Drones are being acquired for aerial monitoring of the animals at night to keep watch on their movement to ensure safety of the villages, he said. “We will also deploy camera traps in the area,” Limaye said.

Gadchiroli Conservator of Forest Ashok Mankar said, “The herd has three baby elephants and all others are females… we have not located any males as yet. Earlier, we thought that they might move on after a few days’ stoppage once the male joins in. But that doesn’t seem to be a possibility any time soon. So, we are geared up to deal with them on a long-term basis. We are guiding the villagers on how to stay safe from the elephants, like making bonfires to keep them off. We will also be installing early warning systems near the villages. These have sensors that can gauge the animal movement from longer distances and raise an alarm so the villagers can keep themselves safe well in time.”

Mankar added, “We will create water holes to restrict them in the forest. For now, they are coming to the water bodies near the villages.”

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