ISSUE: Human Elephant Conflict in Kodagu
Problem and Implications
Elephants seek shelter in the dry, deciduous forests of Kodagu. But the decline in forest cover over time has reduced the inhabitable area and resources for these large populations of elephants. As a consequence, they venture into surrounding human inhabited areas, leading to HEC. It has been observed that practice of Teak monoculture in plantations suppresses nearly all undergrowth and causes soil erosion during the rainy season. This destroys the elephants’ natural habitat.
History: The forests of Kodagu are largely confined to the eastern and western boundaries of the district. While the western side receives high rainfall and has evergreen and semi-evergreen forests, the eastern side is dominated by the dry, deciduous forests. Research tells us that forest cover in Kodagu has declined by about 18% in a span of 20 years and the smaller deciduous forests have been the biggest losers with a loss of 46% cover.
The statistics are alarming. A report prepared by Mr. Bhuminathan on behalf of the WWF in 2008 tells us that over a period of fifteen years (19ak 91 – 2006) 33 of the 119 elephants that died were due to retaliatory killings. On the flipside, human population has grown drastically from less than 200,000 to over 550,000 today.
Current Scenario: Given the trends in population growth, there will is an increased focus on development. This will bring additional pressure on the natural resources and lead to a further decline in forest cover and quality. Elephant habitats continue to be degraded leading to habitat loss and fragmentation, particularly in the Somwarpet Subdivision. As a result of this, elephants raid crops as they see them as a source of food and in the process charter into human territory. HECs have led to crop damage, manslaughter and injuries to people. Humans, in retaliation, have illegally killed elephants on several occasions.
Role of CWS
CWS has taken up the responsibility for HEC mitigation. The organization is also part of the core committee on HEC formed on the directions of the Govt of Karnataka. Several recommendations have been made to the committee and field visits to conflict areas have been made with concerned officials.
Subsequently a number of discussions have been held to find practical solutions to the issue.
A proposal on Project Elephant for Kodagu has been made by the CWS. This will look at both HEC mitigation as well as conservation measures. We are under discussions with PCCF, Tata Coffee Limited and WWF to assist us to implement this project.
On the recommendation of CWS, a pilot project has been initiated by the Forestry College, Ponnampet to phase out Teak Monoculture.