A few days after a woman died in a chance encounter with elephants in Pantnagar area in the Terai region of Kumaon, there have been no reports of fatal human-wildlife conflict situations. However, experts point out that the small elephant population has been trapped in this area due to their corridors being blocked. If the situation remains unchanged and the elephant corridors remain blocked, the human-elephant conflict in this area will only worsen in the coming days.
It will be recalled that earlier, on April 17 two young elephants died after being hit by a train near the Haldi railway station falling under the Terai central forest division. Recently, on April 25, a woman was killed in a chance encounter with a small herd of elephants in the same forest division. Referring to this area, the WWF-India Terai arc landscape team leader Anil Kumar Singh states that the jumbos in this area are practically trapped because of the wildlife corridors being blocked by varied constructions. He says, “The Gaula corridor in this area was accessible for elephants and other wildlife till about 2004 after which various constructions have choked the corridor. An oil depot, an ITBP battalion, railway sleepers and the Bindukhatta settlement have practically left the elephants without any corridor to move out of this area. The upper corridor was used even by big cats but the pachyderms could not use it due to the hilly terrain. The lower corridor used by generations of elephants is now blocked. But since, routes traditionally used by elephants are based on memory, this has increased the potential for human-elephant conflict in the region as the routes which the pachyderms remember to be thoroughfares are now blocked by constructions by people. We all support development but such efforts should be focused on scientific and green development to enable desirable benefit for both the human population and the wild animals. Failing this, the human-wildlife conflict scenario is likely to worsen in the future,” he said.
It is pertinent to mention here that there are about 1,700 elephants in the state. However, problems like contamination and fragmentation of habitat, reduction in fodder availability in the forests and increasing pressure of human activities pose major challenges to the co-existence of elephants in the state.