Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Elephant incursions on farmland around the Salakpra Wildlife Sanctuary are an ongoing challenge
April 21, 2008

The forestry officers at the Salakpra Wildlife Sanctuary sat on the back of a pick-up in semi-darkness, stars twinkling above their heads. Only the soft sound of their chat penetrated the silence. The gathering was so pleasant that we almost forgot why they were here - to prevent wild elephants from the jungle coming to eat crops on the farm.

"They are very intelligent animals. They will wait until no cars are passing and then cross the street," said one officer. It takes 10 of them to surround the invaders and drive them away with firecrackers.

They are here almost every night in the dry season, from November to March or May, when the ripening corn or sugar cane crops lure elephants with their irresistible smells. Elephants usually pay a visit to farmlands at night, from about 8pm onwards, because it's quiet and they're less likely to be disturbed.

Perhaps the herd knew they were going to be ambushed that night, and they stayed away. Luckily for the farmers, their crops were safe for another night. But only for one night. The crop raids, or what the Elephant Conservation Network (ECN) calls "human-elephant conflicts" (HEC), are a common problem found across the world, including Africa and South Asia. In Salakpra, the first incident was reported in 1982 and has persisted for more than 25 years, with more damage incurred in the last five years.

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