Seijosa (Arunachal Pradesh), May 21: The humble paddy has come to the rescue of elephants facing retaliation from villagers during human-elephant conflict in and around the Pakke Tiger Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh.
The state forest department and Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) Monday distributed around 10,000 kg of rice among 100 families living near the reserve in East Kameng district, around 100 km from the state capital Itanagar, under the grain-for-grain programme.
‘People residing in the vicinity of Pakke are highly-affected by wildlife crop depredation problems. In 2011-2012, wild elephants extensively damaged crops of around 100 families of poor farmers,’ divisional forest officer of the reserve Tana Tapi told IANS.
‘The grain is being distributed among these families as a measure to provide them some relief,’ he added.
The villages near the reserve fall in one of the worst human-elephant conflict zones in the northeastern region of the country. Some people even lose their houses when elephants enter human habitations, according to Tapi.
The grain-for-grain programme, conceptualised by WTI under a study funded by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, aims to reduce human retaliation against the pachyderms during human-elephant conflicts.
‘The programme had been immensely successful in the past. So we are continuing this for the current year as well,’ said a WTI official.
‘This is not a compensation, but rather a ‘relief’ provided to the families affected due to loss of their crops,’ explained Sunil Kyarong, regional head – Northeast India, WTI.
About 400 humans are killed in conflicts with wild elephants in India each year and 100 elephants killed in retaliation.
‘Through this scheme, we are creating a ‘bargain’ to ensure that conflicts don’t go out of hand, as it can not only cause more casualties but also negate conservation initiatives,’ said Kyarong, who was part of the WTI team that conceptualised the scheme.