Lhakpa Quendren

In the late hours of August 26, around 11:40pm, a group of 15 elephants wreaked havoc, causing extensive damage to two grocery stores situated near the workshop areas in Gelephu town.

Following a previous attempt on the night of August 23, the elephants forcibly entered the stores by breaking through the shutters, resulting in the destruction of a substantial quantity of refined cooking oil, rice, salt, animal feeds, and various other items.

Sriman Mongar, the manager of Lhadon Shop, expressed his dismay, highlighting that this marked the third incident of store damage this year alone. The initial incident happened on July 12.

Recounting the incidents, Mongar said, “During the first episode, only 25 bags of rice were affected. However, the most recent event resulted in a loss of items valued at Nu 500,000.”

Despite being equipped with sturdy fencing and an advanced lighting system, the elephants broke through the main gates.

Deki Grocery Shop’s Jitendra Pandit reported losses worth Nu 50,000. He said, “The extent of damage was more during the first incident. We had to undertake repairs on the two damaged shutters.”

Elephants damaged grocery items and labour camps in Gelephu

In response to these alarming incidents, store owners have stationed their workers on-site to prevent further damage. However, the frequency of such occurrences has triggered serious concerns among the residents residing in the vicinity of the workshop areas.

In light of these escalating incidents, the Gelephu forest range office took swift action, deploying a rapid response team armed with firecrackers to deter the elephants. Store owners employed a JCB to drive the elephants away.

Lhapchu Tshering, the range officer, expressed growing concerns about the escalating challenges posed by elephants in the Gelephu region. He said that the behaviour of the elephants has evolved over time, now posing significant threats to the lives of both foresters and residents.

He attributed part of the problem to the lack of proper care and maintenance of the electric fencing. “In areas such as Singye and Shompangkha gewogs, incidents like these have been averted due to the presence of well-maintained solar and electric fencing.”

Lhapchu Tshering further said, “Had there been security personnel on-site, they could have promptly reported the incidents, enabling us to respond more effectively. Unfortunately, most of the time, we receive reports only after the damage has occurred.”

Despite facing resource constraints, a team of four dedicated foresters has taken shifts to ensure a swift response during the night.

This same group of elephants also caused destruction of two labour camps at Tashiling, Gelephu Thromde, where more than 20 labourers were residing. The incident occurred around 8:30pm on August 28. The elephants even tried to enter a one-story building at Tashiling.

Given the surge in such incidents, which has exacerbated over the years, the residents are now urging the government to implement a compensation programme to address the damage inflicted on their properties.