Elephants are increasingly coming into conflict with humans in India, where 500 people are reportedly killed every year. The incident in Phushumi village is not the first and only incident in Nagaland. In fact, according to Tokaho H Kinimi (IFS), Wildlife Warden (Wildlife Division Dimapur), all the areas adjoining Doyang River are susceptible to such incidents, particularly the Wokha district.


rice field
Seen here is the farm hut of a rice field belonging to a Phushumi Village farmer destroyed by wild elephants last week.


According to Kinimi, a long-term plan for coexisting with the elephant is crucial because the elephant will continue to move from place to place in search of food, and that the elephant will continue to come to the village area.


Why are the elephants coming to the fields?

When asked why the elephants are coming to the fields, Kinimi explained that due to extensive clearing of forest areas, elephants are diverting their routes towards fields in search of food and shelter.


He also mentioned that elephants have a strong sense of smell and can detect crops like paddies and maize from a far-off distance while nutritious crops like rice, maize, sugarcane, and bananas are especially enticing to them. He highlighted that elephants from reserves or sanctuaries may even venture into fields to consume these ‘nutritious’ crops.


Moreover, he pointed out that the elephants in the Doyang area are trapped and cannot return to Assam.


“They are just stuck around the Doyang area; they will multiply so they will keep coming to the village area because villafe like Phushumi do not even have dense forest vegetation,” he said, emphasizing the need for a long-term plan, suggesting the declaration of certain areas as “reserved for elephants” as the only viable solution for their peaceful coexistence.


Challenges in mitigating the issue

One of the biggest challenges in mitigating this issue in India is the scarcity of land set aside for wildlife, which amounts to less than 5%. Additionally, millions of people live adjacent to protected areas or within them.


According to Kinimi, in Nagaland, the biggest challenge is that most forest areas are privately or community-owned, making it difficult to find a consensus among landowners who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods.


“The only way out for the villagers will be to declare certain areas as ‘untouched’ or declare it under Elephant-based community reserve,” he said. However, due to fragmented land ownership, with patches of forest having multiple owners, reaching a consensus becomes challenging.


“The problem is being faced now because we cannot find the consensus,” he said.


Finding effective solution

Amidst the challenge, according to Kinimi, “understanding the behavioral nature of the elephant” and “commitment from the community” can play a crucial role in mitigating this conflict.


Kinimi expressed concerns about villagers resorting to shooting and scare tactics to protect their land, which could distress elephants and escalate their violent behavior.


Although he acknowledged the villagers’ cooperation and openness to suggestions and changes thus far, he nonetheless cautioned that, without a long-term solution, negative sentiments among humans would grow. Therefore, he stressed the need for understanding the elephant’s patterns and creating awareness among the villagers.


“Because, we cannot tell the elephants to continue to stay in the same place; we only have to understand the elephant’s pattern, at the same time, awareness must be created among the villagers,” he said.


He also urged educated individuals who comprehend the situation thoroughly to lead and envision the consequences of inaction ten years from now.


The way forward

According to Kinimi, the only solution is ‘compromise’ and support from the village councils.


“We should have a continuous patch of forest for these elephants to roam around throughout the Doyang reservoir. We have to link every village which is being affected by elephants and make it some sort of a continuous patch where they can move around.”


“Once we declare that, maybe we can take certain measures such as proposing the central government to demarcate the areas or put fencing and pursue some measures which can be done by notifying it as a community reserve or bifurcate the areas; otherwise, it will keep happening,” he added.


Self-protection from violent elephant attack

Regarding self-protection from violent elephant attacks, Kinimi advised villagers not to spend overnight in the fields when elephants are known to be roaming. He emphasized the importance of leaving the forest under any circumstances, as elephants tend to appear at night. Kinimi urged villagers to refrain from going to the riverside for fishing in the morning. Returning home, he noted, would prevent the loss of human lives.


Mokokchung Times

One thought on “Human-Elephant interaction: Understanding a growing concern”
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