Forestry officials in Gelephu, in coordination with the dzongkhag administration and Royal Bhutan Police (RBP), are exploring ways to use a drone to locate and chase elephants away from the Gelephu thromde area.

Forestry officials say the plan would possibly be executed sometime next week.

They say they opted to use a drone after the initial method of chasing elephants by blank firing and burning crackers failed.

Officials also said a stakeholder meeting was held to discuss ways to chase the elephants following directives from the Prime Minister last week.

Sources said that following the meeting officials from forestry, dzongkhag administration and police chased a herd of elephants from the airport compound on July 28.

The range officer, Singye Wangchuk, said although they could successfully chase the herd out of the airport compound, the elephants have not gone far. “Airport compound is the only hiding place for elephants as there is a thick forest.”

He said that during the night, elephants come out in the town attacking palatable food such as grain, banana, salt and drinks.

“People have been cautioned to take care of these palatable foods. This is the least forestry can do besides chasing them from one place to another.”

Singye Wangchuk also said that while the elephants have not been destructive and did not damage properties so far, the fear is that they could cause harm to human life.

“There is a serious threat to human life considering the movement of people in town,” he said. “This has become a burden and nuisance to the whole community.”

He said there are at least 13 elephants strolling around Gelephu thromde at the moment. “Sometimes the herd splits. During the day they hide in the airport compound and the teak plantation area between Gelephu town and Pelrithang and at night come looking for food.”

He also said it is feared that the damage could be major when crops ripen in October. “That is when the number of elephants also increases. The highest number of elephant found in a herd entering fields in Gelephu so far was 23 in 2017.”

Nirmala Pokhre | Tsirang