Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

With Tashicholing in Samtse under lockdown for the fourth time, residents said elephants are frequenting the area and causing menace.

Elephants, in parade, are running on the blacktopped roads, fields and in the courtyards, posing risk to humans, properties and crops.

On June 15, a 62-year-old farmer from Peljorling A was trampled by an elephant and dragged about five metres. It happened between 8.30am and 9am.

The man was rushed to the Sipsu basic health unit. He sustained a minor injury on his knee.

According to forest officials, the man encountered the elephant while collecting bamboo about 400 meters away from his house.

An official said the man didn’t see the elephants since the area is covered under thick bushes and it was raining heavily at that time.

“The elephant was returning to its safer ground below Sipsu bridge after grazing in the village at night.”

Elephants cause menace every year in Tashichholing. They attack crops, properties and even villagers.

In December 2019, an elephant killed a 69-year-old woman in Maneydara village.

In Belbotay, Jai Narayan Katwal and his family had a close encounter with an elephant on June 30 this year. It took the family and locals more than 30 minutes to chase the animal away.   

“The elephant had done the damage by then,” he said.

The stone wall of his two-storied house was wrecked. The elephant also had eaten about 480kg of rice grain (some strewn and wasted) from the grain store. It also consumed 50kgs each of salt and Karma Feeds. Windows and doors of the house were broken.

“Forest officials had come and recorded our loss,” Jai Narayan Katwal said, adding that the RICBL officials also had visited and asked him to return to their office after the lockdown.

Forest officials are trying to resolve the elephant issue in Tashichholing.

An official said they have a Quick Response Team (QRT) among the villagers. Field gears such as raincoat, torch lights, and boots have been provided. The team is activated whenever the elephants are there.

“We have given a shared responsibility to them,” he said. “But nothing can be done during the lockdowns. We just inform people to alert people.”

The primary concern among the foresters is the issue of mobility, the official said, explaining that Tashichholing is vast and the roads were not pliable in small cars.

“Foresters live in scattered areas,” he said.

An early warning system was installed a few years ago but it is defunct now.

Tashichholing range office has given awareness on safety to the people. “QRT is always on alert mode every day,” an official said. “A radio collaring project is also in pipeline but it is delayed due to the pandemic and the lockdowns.”

He said equipment is ready, but they need experts from Thimphu.

“The work will be carried out in this financial year.”

Other projects such as enrichment plantations to replace unnecessary jungle with useful plants, construction of watch tower and making physical barriers are among many key programmes in the plan.

Meanwhile, residents are waiting eagerly for action to resolve the elephant problem for good.

It has been a disheartening moment for Dil Raj Rai, a village folk in Jogimara as elephants damaged about 50 teak trees from his farm a week ago.

“The trees were three years old,” he said. “I heard some trees were damaged yesterday. I haven’t gone to see it yet. I don’t feel like going.”

It was not the first incident. Dil Raj claims he has lost over 150 teak trees to elephants in the last two years. Among the damaged trees, only few survive.

Edited by Tashi Dema