The Western Ghats is also known as Sahyadri, which decodes into the benevolent mountains. The Western Ghats run parallel along the western coast of the Indian peninsula. It is also a UNESCO heritage site and is one of the only eight biodiversity hotspots around the world. The Western Ghats shelter around 10000 Asian Elephants and the Sindhudurg and Kolhapur districts of Maharashtra form the northmost frontier of the elephant distribution. Wild elephants that are from the Dandeli Forest Division have imposed and have been intruding into the forests of Sindhudurg and Kolhapur Districts of Maharashtra. This influx also led to some elephants becoming residents of the Sindhudurg districts. This range extension of elephants is causing an increased level of human-wildlife conflict as the people inhabiting in and around the Sindhudurg District are unconversant to the ways and behaviour of elephants. This is grounding to the increased attraction of socio-political spheres of Sindhudurg districts. To understand this conflict in a more detailed manner, a study was conducted by Milind D. Patil and Vinayak K. Patil to understand the trends and patterns of elephant crop-raiding in human-dominated landscapes in Sindhudurg District.
Elephants in the wild. Credit: awlw/pixabay
In this study, data was collected from the Range Forest Offices of the Forest Department. The data gathered were the records of crop-raiding by elephants from 2002-2015. These reports were filed by the farmers to get compensation for their loss. From these records, information was available for 9148 cases. Two hundred and forty-four villages were affected by these crop raids. The information also showed that around 36 crops were damaged. These ranged from fruit and spice crops like banana, coconut, jambul, lemon to field crops, and forestry plantations like rice, millets, sugarcane, bamboo, teak, bajra, etc. Coconut, rice,
Banana and areca palm were amongst the most raided crops. It was also observed that crop-raiding was most eminent in November and December. According to a study recorded by Mehta and Kulkarni, around 7000 crop-raiding cases were observed from 2002-2013. And this study by Milind and Vinayak recorded over 9000 cases from 2002-2015. Therefore, it can be seen that more than 2000 cases were added in merely two years. This is a rising concern for both the elephants and the people residing in and around Sindhudurg. This attests that the Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC) has intensified in Sindhudurg. The data reminds us that perhaps the HEC might get more intensified in the coming years. A follow up to this study has fortified this speculation. It is also to be kept in mind that only about 64 percent of the farmers reported raids, hinting that the exact number is way more than the data provided by the Range Forest Offices. Nearly 90 percent of the total geographical area was raided by Elephants on a regular pattern. The crop-raiding in Karnataka is way more than that found in Sindhudurg. However, if this pattern of crop-raiding continues it might not be long when the cases in Sindhudurg exceed the levels observed in Karnataka. This can be resisted if managed effectively. Therefore, researchers have a new extent of studying raiding patterns of Sindhudurg and come up with scientifically backed measures to propagate this HEC and come up with stratagems that will be a win-win situation for both the stakeholders and the elephants.
Sources: BARCROFT MEDIA VIA GETTY IMAGES
Patil, Milind & Patil, Vinayak. (2019). Trends and patterns of elephant crop raiding in Sindhudurg District, Maharashtra, India. 50. 17-22.