Lhakpa Quendren | Gelephu

In the early hours between 2:30am and 3am yesterday, a herd of 12 elephants caused damage to sections of a three-acre paddy field in Samtenthang, Sarpang.

The farmer, who works on land owned by another individual, shares 50 percent of the rice production with the landowner.

In a separate incident, during the early hours of September 5, a group of 22 elephants demolished the hut of Bhim Maya Subba in Samdrupling, within the Gelephu Thromde. Household items such as the refrigerator, television, and rice cooker were also destroyed.

“We spent the night at our neighbour’s house after a relative alerted us about the elephants,” she said.

Bhim Maya Subba, a single mother, works as a labourer and cares for her two school-going children. Following her divorce four years ago, she purchased a hut made of corrugated iron sheets for Nu 20,000, which is situated on someone else’s land.

The following day, men from nearby neighbours assisted in rebuilding Bhim Maya’s house. However, she remains in constant fear, as her small home, despite the reconstruction, still poses a risk of collapsing at any time.

Elephants damaged a hut in Samdrupling in Gelephu thromde

Records from the Gelephu forest range office indicate that the farmers who have suffered losses due to elephant encounters are small-scale farmers who face economic and nutritional vulnerabilities.

Tashi Wangdi, a senior forestry ranger, stated that families without proper housing are the most affected and vulnerable to human-elephant conflicts. “Many of the victims lack the financial means to undertake maintenance and reconstruction work.”

“It would be immensely helpful if the individuals affected by elephant visits could receive compensation for the losses they have incurred. This is a plea for assistance, whether from local authorities, wildlife conservation organizations, or other sources, to provide relief and support to those affected,” he said.

Similarly, on August 31, a herd of 17 elephants damaged a labor camp and the main door of an under-construction house in Dzomlingthang in Gelephu Gewog. Later, on September 1, a group of 12 elephants also damaged the windows and bonnets of two vehicles in Pelrithang.

Tashi Wangdi stated that the elephants have become increasingly aggressive, and it has become challenging to deter and disperse them using only blasting devices. “Due to the continued efforts to drive away the elephants, they have become agitated and increasingly aggressive, posing a significant risk to the lives of the QRT members.”

The forest team frequently resorts to firing shots into the air with SLR rifles as a means of intimidating the elephants and ensuring the safety of the residents and their properties.

The range office recorded more than 65 elephant-related incidents from July 19 to September 5 in Gelephu and Samtenling this year. There have been 477 incidents recorded from December 2020 to August 2023.

The issue of human-elephant conflict (HEC), such as human casualties and injuries, as well as losses of crops and properties, has been on the rise over the years in Gelephu.