Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing
Farmers of Singeygang (Hangay) village in Tashichholing, Samtse have been spending sleepless nights guarding their fields these past few days.
With the village thriving with crops, elephants are back devastating acres of maize fields, areca nut and banana trees.
About 21 areca nut trees have been completely broken, while many have been partially damaged with their barks stripped. At least 18 households have reported of losses.
Singeygang tshogpa Ram Prashad Sharma said that more than 40 areca nut trees have been damaged from his field alone.
“However, not all the trees were rendered completely useless. Some would grow back,” he said.
The village’s elephant tshogpa, KN Sharma said that there are four to six elephants frequenting the village these days. He said there are four hiding in the coffee plantation.
“Three elephants are seen more regularly. Two are male.”
Day before yesterday, the elephants, KN Sharma said, were seen near Sipsuchhu bridge. They have appeared several times that day.
“Yesterday, we didn’t sleep for the whole night. What to say? Who to blame?”
Among the villages in Tashichholing, Singeygang suffers the most from this pachyderm menace.
Elephants follow the 14 elephant corridors to enter the village. Every year, people get frustrated as their paddy and areca nut trees are trampled.
Due to this, many people of Singeygang have left their fields fallow.
In 2017, the gewog office with support from the government had blocked all the corridors with boulders. This worked and villagers had a bountiful paddy harvest that year.
However, blockades were compromised due to heavy rain and didn’t last. The elephants returned the following year.
Tashichholing gup Samir Giri said that farmers didn’t get to harvest corn this season.
“Most cornfields and areca nut trees are damaged,” he said.
Initially, the elephants, according to the gup started at the lower parts of Singeygang, but now they have reached the upper regions.
Gup Samir Giri said that now people are worried about their paddy. The gup also said that the only means to stop the marauding elephants was by blocking the entry points.
“Our only expectation is to continue this project of blocking the entry points,” he said.
“Until and unless the government does something to help, Singeygang farmers will not harvest what they cultivate.”
Gup Samir Giri also said that if the trial project of the previous government, which was to block the 14 corridors had continued in Singeygang, farmers would have had agricultural activities at full swing.
“However, we are hopeful because we heard that the ministry of agriculture has allocated a lion’s share for human wildlife conflict,” the gup said.
“We are keeping our fingers crossed.”
Forest officials are currently assessing the damages, a forester said.
“We are also on night duty and go to the fields time and again along with the villagers,” he said, adding that they were trying their best to protect the fields.
Compared to the methods used in chasing the elephants across the border, with guns and firecrackers, elephants are safer in Bhutan because such methods are not applied here.
“And this makes the animals switch their grazing grounds to the Bhutanese lands,” he said.