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Elephants create mayhem in villages of Sonitpur district

From a Correspondent
Tezpur, Sept 13: A herd of wild elephants has been creating mayhem during the last two months in several villages of Balipara and Rangapara area besides the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh bordering areas, destroying several houses. The local residents are spending sleepless nights. A wild herd of pachyderms sauntered across from the Sunai-Rupai forest into the populous neighbouring villages of Balipara and Chariduar in Sonitpur district. Panic prevailed among the villagers when a wild giant elephant with a long tusk entered the village and damaged eight houses of Kartik Tanti, Amit Tanti, Chamir Tanti, Punu Orang, Amit Changa, Jugnu Lohar, Raja Orang and Lakhinath Karmakar, and destroyed property and crops of the people.
Elephant herds need long and varied ranges with good migration corridors linking them, so that they can follow the rains and changing seasons to the best feeding grounds. Man-animal conflicts have become a major concern for the people of the villages of Rangapara, Balipara and Chariduar.  A herd comprising 20-30 elephants regularly come out from Sonai Rupai wildlife sanctuary and Nameri National Park in search of food, and has been creating havoc in the tea gardens and nearby villages, damaging several houses. Several people were trampled to death, and many farmers driven to ruin as the herd cuts a swathe across standing crops for miles at a stretch. But apart from the immediate toll, the elephants’ long march was a grim reminder of the deteriorating relationship between man and elephant. Inevitably, at the crux of the conflict is the struggle for land. With human population expanding geometrically, elephant habitats have been under pressure and the largest land mammal has been left with very little land to its name.
Local people alleged that if their own degraded forests no longer guarantee them food, agricultural lands provide easy pickings for the herd. Elephant raids on standing crops in Assam have become routine. As man and elephant cross paths, the result is a head-on confrontation in which both sides are losers. The more massive mammal is certainly capable of inflicting its share of damage. The stand-off is at its grimmest in the region, local people alleged.