Bandipur Tiger Reserve consists of two sub-divisions with 11 Ranges. Among the 11 Ranges, eight Ranges namely Gundre, N. Begur, Moliyur, Omkar, Kundukere, Gopalaswamy Betta, Maddur and Hediyala are facing the Human-Elephant conflict whereas, Bandipur, Moolehole and A M Gudi ranges does not have any fringe villages. On the basis of recent years’ experience, areas of Kundukere and Omkar Ranges can be categorized high risk zone, areas of Gopalaswamy Betta, Maddur Ranges, Hediyala can be categorized as medium risk zone and Gundre and N. Begur Ranges can be considered as low risk zone. In addition to this, the adjoining territorial ranges like Gundlupet of Kollegala Division, Sargur and Nanjangud of Mysore Division are also affected by elephants that are migrating from Bandipur Tiger Reserve.
The problem of Human-Elephant conflict has resulted in diversion of Men, material and time from protection and development activities to driving of elephants, assessment of crop loss, and compensation distribution. It also resulted in an acrimonious relationship between the Park management and the people defeating the long term objective of maintaining wildlife - friendly relationship. In one hand, most of the time, energy and enthusiasm of the frontline staff during cropping season is lost in the process of attending phone call complaints, attending dharana’s, field visit, drawing mahazars, conducting post mortems and Anti-depredation activities and on the other hand, farmers remain restless, unhappy and angry because of the fact that from the date of crop showing till the harvest, farmers have to guard the crop day and night. The compensation paid by Government towards crop losses is about 20% to 30% of the actual crop loss. Hence, the farmers of the region are living in the shadow of crop loss by Elephants and facing lot of hardship. This has resulted in some of the farmers leaving their lands uncultivated and some other farmers changing their cropping pattern from food crops to tobacco which in a way affects the total food grain production of the country.
Strategy to mitigate Human-Elephant conflict
The long term strategies includes consolidation of Elephant Proof Trench (EPT) which is existing all along the 'D' line, Planting of agave suckers on the EPT mound, installation of Solar Fence and formation of service road all along the solar fence. The short term measures includes intensive management of Solar fence, regular maintenance of EPT, road and keeping anti-depredation camps with vehicle, crackers and torches at strategic locations during the cropping season.
Realizing the need for mitigating human-elephant conflict intensively and by understanding the short term and long term measures, the Park management started taking up certain measures. Solar fence was installed all along the northern boundary of Tiger Reserve abutting fringe villages and agricultural fields. The existing EPT was maintained by de-silting, whereas new EPT was excavated wherever necessary. The Service road was made all along the solar fencing in order to look after solar fence and also for the easy movement of staff for both protection of forest and wildlife and driving wild elephants back to forest. The Service Road – Elephant Proof Trench – Solar fencing combination has worked at Bandipur Tiger Reserve.
Maintenance of solar fencing ,Solar Units and multiple use solar sheds
There is about 214 km length of solar fencing all along the ‘D’ line of the forest adjacent to fringe villages and farm fields. Entire length of fence has been divided into 3 km units for effective management. Now there are 71 solar units for entire length of solar fencing across all the ranges. The multipurpose solar sheds were constructed in between two 3 km solar units to house the energizer, battery and solar panels of two solar units and walkie-talkies and also for the continuous stay of staff members. The actual contract terms and conditions had installation and initial 2 years of maintenance. Hence, a technical supervisor was appointed on temporary basis by the contractor.
In addition, local unemployed youth from Eco Development Committee (EDC) were appointed as solar watcher on temporary basis for the easy maintenance of solar fence adjacent to his village. A bicycle was provided to solar watcher for easy movement all along the service road. And also the departmental staffs were also given responsibility to manage the solar watchers and solar fencing on unit basis. In every solar shed, one of the departmental staff and one solar watcher would stay and the technical supervisor will supervise two or three units. Range wise ID Number of solar units, name of technical supervisor, solar watcher and departmental staff and their contact numbers were enclosed. Each solar shed has one Digital Volt Meter (DVM) to check the voltage frequently all along the length of the solar unit. The safe voltage limit of 7.0 to 9.5 kv is maintained to be efficient in deterring elephants and other wild animals to cross over multiple barriers. The job of the solar watcher is to check there is any earthing of power due to the contact of solar wires to earth or contact of weeds. Weeding has to be done frequently and if elephants damage solar fence that has to be rectified immediately. Local EDC members have also co-operated with the staff in weeding and also to maintain the EPT for effective barrier maintenance.
Every day morning and evening, the solar watcher will traverse entire length of solar unit on his bicycle to check the working of solar system. He will repair the solar wires if there is any damage and regulary weed the area below solar wires. In the evening he will record DVM reading at different locations along the length of solar unit. The DVM reading is communicated to the Division office through walkie-talkies immediately. The Deputy Conservator of Forests will review the functioning of all the soalr units by going through all the solar readings. If there is minor damage it will be rectified by local technical supervisor. And if its major repair then it will be brought to the notice of contractor who has to repair it within 24 hours. Otheriwse all the compensation amount arsing due to elephants moving out and raiding crops has to be borne by the contractor.
DRASTIC REDUCTION IN THE LEVEL OF MAN-ANIMAL CONFLICT
|Sl. No.||Year||Crop compensation case registered||Elephant Electrocution death||Human Death|
The multiple barriers and innovative way of its effective maintenance has resulted in the drastic reduction of man – animal conflict. The Solar fence – EPT and service road prevented the especially elephants moving out from forests and causing severe crop depredation. There were about 8870 registered crop compensation cases, almost 10 elephants were electrocuted and 4 people lost their lives due to conflicts in the year 2008-09. The initiation of multiple barriers and its effective maintenance has resulted in gradual decline of crop depredation. The registered crop compensation cases reduced to 6040 and 2408 in the year 2009-10 and 2010-11 respectively. About 8 elephants were electrocuted and 2 persons succumbed to death in the year 2009-10. The completion of solar fencing –EPT – Service road has resulted in 627 registered crop compensation cases, electrocution of 3 elephants and no human death in the year 2011-12.
In addition the multiple barriers had resulted in the cultivation of large areas of fallow lands which were not cultivated all these years due to crop depredation be elephants. There was a shift in the cropping pattern and type of crops grown. Farmers had grown traditional crops like Ragi in the forest fringes in addition to commercial crops like sugar cane, banana etc. It had resulted in saving of lot of time and energy of the departmental staff and also of the farmers who used to spend sleepless nights guarding their crops.