Experiments seem to suggest that bee-hive nests put on fences around farms prevent elephant herds from invading the fields and eat up the crop. Elephants are vulnerable to stings on their tender body parts like the trunk and the herds prefer to stay away from bee hives, it has been seen.
But the conflict between elephants, who are increasingly raising human habitations in search of food following depleting forests and their natural habitat, is on the rise. And despite restrictions on ivory trade and smuggling, poaching of elephants is still profitable. Assam, West Bengal and Odisha have seen the largest number of death, both of elephants and also of human beings killed by elephants. As many as 227 people were killed by wild elephants in 2018 alone, most of them in Assam.
Electrocution of elephants is a particular cause for concern in managing India’s elephant population. Deaths caused by electrocution stood at 226, contributing to 60.6% of deaths since 2015, according to the data. In comparison, elephant deaths by all other causes, including train accidents, poaching and poisoning, added up to 147.
Wildlife Trust of India in February hosted a conclave on ‘Elephant Conservation beyond Borders’, jointly with CMS, Project Elephant of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change of the Government of India and the Asian Elephant Species Specialist Group of IUCN. The panel comprised Vivek Menon (Chair, IUCN Asian ElephantSpecialist Group), Noyal Thomas (Inspector General, Project Elephant), Raquibul Amin (Country Representative, Bangladesh, IUCN), Ms. Andrea Dekrout (EU Programme Management Officer, CMS Secretariat), Sonam Wangdi (Chief Forestry Officer, Nature Conservation Division, Department of Forests and Park Services, Bhutan)..
The IGPE stressed, “Human elephant conflict is escalated on the Nepal border due to a fence while on the Indo Bangladesh border, elephants find their corridor blocked due to human settlements that is increasingly causing conflict. We are close to getting the Asian Elephant listed in CMS which will help bolster Transboundary co-operation”.
Vivek Menon emphasised that the issues faced by Bangladesh are far more complex. However, incursions have also increased in Bhutan over time. We have been cajoling governments to come up with National Elephant Action Plans. Six of the range states have done this and we are hopeful more will follow through”.
India has also been helping neighbouring countries with technical and capacity building support towards elephant conservation. Sonam Wangdi from Bhutan proposed a trans-boundary peace park across the Indo –Bhutan landscape that is a prime habitat for elephants traversing these borders.
A WTI report stated: India is home to an excess of 27,000 Asian elephants — over half of the world’s population. The species is already endangered due to deforestation and industrialization of their habitat. This encroaching manmade boundary has caused a mounting conflict between man and elephant, and it is one that has wrought violence and heartbreak.
The elephant's traditional routes from one forest to another throughout the country are called corridors and these are now blocked by developing villages, railroad tracks, mines, and agricultural areas. As a result of this, elephants are forced into Indian villages and farmland.
Farmers livelihoods are consequently destroyed when elephant herds trample or eat their crops, and in some cases, the farmers' lives are also at stake by stampedes and attacks.
In fact, many elephants are learning to eat directly from the farms. Young elephants grow up grazing these easily accessible crops and it becomes a natural habit for them to continue to default to these farms as they grow older and have their own babies.
The railroad between Siliguri and Alipurduar has claimed the lives of many elephants. In fact, between 2009 and 2017, approximately 120 of the total 655 recorded elephant deaths in this conflict were due directly to train accidents.
Yet, railway officials refuse to take the blame for the blood of elephant herds who attempted to cross the tracks. The trains travel at high-speeds and receive no warning when elephants — or any living thing — is blocking their way.
Photographer Atish Sen witnessed the scene where some elephant corpses were being removed. "I have never seen such a ghastly incident. Elephants were literally chopped into pieces," he said.