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Nima | Gelephu

Three men working at the Gelephu Industrial Service Centre (ISC) were driven out of their bed at 2am yesterday after a herd of elephants wrecked their makeshift camp and entered the bedroom. 

They spent the night at the neighbour’s place. A mechanic had to sleep inside the car he was repairing, as the herd damaged the camp and loitered around the place for around half an hour.  

“We were only an inch away from the herd. My friend saw the elephants coming and we fled the camp immediately. They ate the leftover rice and left,” said Bharat Verman. 

There were eight of them. The residents and workers living at the ISC said that the same group was seen loitering and causing problems to the community for the past three days. 

The highest number of elephants seen in a group was 20, according to the people from Trashiling. 

ISC representative, Kamal Pradhan, said that the lives of the residents at ISC are at risk. “There were also damage to properties but the more important is human life. Another thing is that there is no compensation for the damage. We are a small economy here and everybody’s trying to cope with it,” he said. 

He added that the forest officials also attended to the call from the people. “Quick response team is activated but we don’t know how many members are there in the team. The officials are engaged in the Covid-19 duty along the border and we are planning to supplement the team,” said Kamal Pradhan. 

However, it was learned that the business community was not forthcoming to form a group that would supplement the quick response team. 

Kamal Pradhan said it has become risky for the residents in ISC because many depots stocked food items in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“We have to be careful now. People walk from Trashiling to Zomlingthang and not everybody is aware of the situation. It may have a larger impact on human lives,” he said. 

Amith Gurung and his friend hired a warehouse at ISC last month to store household items in a warehouse. The duo lost about Nu 180,000 worth of household items in the last three days after the elephants attacked the warehouse continuously for two days. 

The duo shifted their store items to another warehouse yesterday. 

Amith Gurung said that there was no solution other than to light a fire. “Forest officials fire blank shots which helps,” he said.   

Solution 

Sarpang forest officials said an application was developed to enhance online reporting through the Human elephant conflict (HEC) project because there was no proper data on human-elephant conflicts. 

The focal person of the project, Tashi Wangdi said the dzongkhag planned to reestablish the response team, which was not functional last year because of the Covid-19 duty. 

“Report couldn’t be collected because of the staff shortage. The project plans to redesign electric fencing and train farmers for better information sharing,” he said. 

According to the official, the elephant moved up towards Gelephu, as the adjoining forest across the border was cleared. 

“Elephants have lost their habitat and we have a good forest cover here. Moreover, our people don’t harm them and they are not frightened. We use only sound to chase them away,” said Tashi Wangdi.  

As a part of habitat improvement initiatives, divisional office Sarpang has constructed waterholes after they observed elephants damaging drinking water tanks and pipelines. 

Fodder enrichment and removal of Lantana Camara, an exotic weed found in elephant habitat were conducted in the dzongkhag, among many other initiatives, according the officials. 

Edited by Tshering Palden




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