BAREILLY: A herd of wild elephants wreaked havoc in social forestry’s Maheshpur range in Mohammadi area of Lakhimpur Kheri district of Uttar Pradesh, destroying several acres of standing crops and damaging a temple gate.
This is the first time since the 1980s that a herd has come to this area, Samir Kumar, divisional forest officer, told TOI. There were more than 15 elephants in the herd, including two calves, he added.
The foresters surmise that the same herd but with smaller numbers had tried to cross over from Mailani range of Dudhwa Tiger Reserve in July to another forest but returned after failing to find a corridor to move on. The herd moved to Pilibhit, where it apparently united with another herd and returned to Maheshpur range on Wednesday.
There was a wildlife corridor in Mohammadi years ago but now, the area is densely populated, old-timers said. The elephants’ return indicates a bid to revive an old wildlife corridor.
But, this spells trouble for farmers in the area as they do not know how to deal with a herd of wild elephants.
Anil Chauhan, Bagh Mitra master trainer, told TOI, “The last time wild elephants migrated here was in 1988-89. This herd has two young calves and the elephants are quite protective of their calves and may turn aggressive anytime. They target the sugarcane fields at night. They have destroyed the cane fields of several farmers at Mallapur village. We are lighting fires outside the village, using acrid smoke with chillies, crackers and beating drums to keep the herd away. We have been monitoring their movement since they entered Kheri district from Pilibhit.”
Farmer Anoop Singh said, “The elephants have trampled and destroyed my paddy field completely, causing a loss of over Rs 1.5 lakh. Am not sure if I will get compensation.”
DFO Kumar said, “The sugarcane fields are possibly attracting the elephants here. The elephants have now reached Aonla block of forests and there is no forest area from here. Our ranger along with his team is monitoring the area and trying everything possible with the support of local volunteers and ‘bagh mitras’ to minimize the possibility of man-elephant conflict. Our priority is to push the herd back towards its natural habitat without causing a panic situation.”