Lhakpa Quendren | Gelephu

In the early hours of July 3, between midnight and 1am, two elephants damaged a hut in Lekithang in Gelephu gewog. This incident, which occurred only one kilometre away from the main Gelephu town, prompted concerns among local authorities and residents as a herd of 17 elephants is currently loitering around the area.

The elephants also broke areca nut trees in Zomlingthang, a neighbouring village about two kms from town. Of the 17 elephants, a herd of five elephants was spotted at Pelrithang, five km from Gelephu town on the Gelephu-Zhemgang highway, on July 3.

According to commuters, the herd entered the border near the airport on July 2 evening. Lekithang, which is located opposite the airport, is a highly vulnerable area as elephants often cross the border and enter through that area.

Lekithang Tshogpa, Ugyen Tshering said that the hut belongs to a couple in their 50s. “At the time of the incident, there was no one in the hut as the couple has been living with their children for some time.”

Following the incident, the Gelephu Gewog Administration appealed to all thram holders of the gewog to clear bushes on their registered plots as a measure to enhance community safety. 

Gelephu gup Prem Prasad Katel said that measures are being taken to discourage elephants from residing and reduce the risk of human-elephant conflicts.

“We even don’t know the landowners as they clear the land taxes online. Their plots with thick bushes serve as potential hiding spots for elephants,” he said. 

As the elephants would loiter in the area for several months, the gup emphasised the need for the residents, local authorities, and relevant stakeholders to collaborate in implementing preventive measures to avoid potential risks caused by elephants.

“There was a rise in elephant rampages in the community in the past years and has created a nuisance among the people,” he said, calling for collective efforts in mitigating the challenges posed by the roaming elephant herd.

Gelephu mangmi Sonam Dakpa said that the lack of compensation for the losses and damages caused by elephants has also frustrated the residents, in addition to human-elephant conflict.

“Despite the local community raising this issue several times with the dzongkhag, and the government, nothing has been done so far. People often accuse us of not helping them, but we are also helpless without government support,” he said.