A herd of elephants from the Phibsoo Wildlife Sanctuary has arrived in Gelephu thromde since last week, taking the total number of elephants roaming the Gelephu thromde to almost 15.

At least seven to 11 elephants were already encroaching farms and homes in Gelephu for more than a month now. Commuters and residents often encounter the animal crossing highway and roaming around the thromde. However, no harm to humans or damage to property has been reported so far.

Forestry officials in Gelephu were able to trace that it was a herd from Phibsoo with the help of the global positioning system (GPS) collaring of elephants.

GPS collaring on one of the female elephants were done in the Phibsoo Wildlife Sanctuary in 2015.

Forestry officials said the collaring was done to understand their dietary patterns and their migratory routes.

The timing of the movement of the elephant population within the country is also being recorded with the GPS collar.

Ranger Singye Wangchuk in Gelephu said that, although collared in Phibsoo Wildlife Sanctuary, it couldn’t be confirmed if the elephant belongs to the Sanctuary, Royal Manas National park or is from across the border. The GPS collaring has helped forestry officials trace the location and migration pattern of the animal.

Meanwhile, forestry division in coordination with dzongkhag administration and Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) has not been able to use a drone to frighten and chase away elephants from the thromde.  “We’ve appraised the department of forests for the same,” Singye Wangchuk said.

Following directives from the former Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay during his recent visit to Gelephu, the forestry officials used methods such as blank firing and burning crackers to chase elephants but failed.

The animals at the moment are hiding in the forest in Gelephu Airport compound, forestry officials said. “Their initial hideout was along the Gelephu-Pelrithang highway in the teak plantation area. Since Gelephu thromde has already cleared the bush inside the plantation, the animals are permanently stationed in the airport compound during the day,” a forestry official said.

Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang