Nima | Gelephu

Farmers in Pelrithang Khatoed in Gelephu have to spend sleepless nights guarding their paddy fields from elephants.

Farmers move in a group, shouting and banging old galvanised steel sheets to chase the elephants away.

Elephants are also posing a threat to the lives of residents because the paddy fields are located close to their homes.

Residents said that the elephants intrude in their homes, which are mostly temporary structures, in search of salt and food.

Pelrithang Khatoed tshogpa, Sangay Dorji, said farmers have reported more damage to paddy fields this year because they weren’t able to replace their electric fence wires. “We are only a month away from harvesting paddy crops and it’s disappointing to lose our crop to the elephants.”

He said villagers have requested that the gewog help them replace the electric fence wires. “But there were no wires in the gewog. Most of the electric fences are currently non-operational.”

The tshogpa said farmers will have to keep guarding their fields until they complete the harvest in November and December. “We have not been compensated so far, even after losing acres of paddy field to wildlife. This is discouraging the farmers. We work hard and in the end, we lose it to wild animals.”

He said more than six households reported damages last week. “One household in Pelrithang Khatoed grows at least five acres of rice. However, more than 30 percent of the crop has been lost to the wild animals.”

A resident, Indra Lal Bhandari, said that the attack from the elephants has only just begun.

“We could lose more until we harvest the crop. Sometimes, the elephants won’t move when we try to chase them away. It’s disappointing to face the same problem every year,” he said.

Another farmer from Pelrithang said that it would be better to discontinue working on the farm. “We are able to harvest only a little of what we grow. Most of the rice is lost to elephants and other wildlife.”

He said that the voltage used for the electric fencing does not work against the wild animals. “Increasing the voltage could keep them away. More than 50 decimals of paddy fields were destroyed last week.”

Gelephu gup Ugyen Wangchuk said farmers depend on an alarm installed with the support from the wildlife fund. “There are minor damages every year. The place falls within the town area, and the affected households can’t get any compensation.”

Edited by Tashi Dema