Elephant-Human Conflict in the Western Duars of Northern West Bengal, India

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Table of Contents
The Western Duars and the Elephant corridor3
Zones in the Corridor3
The conflict4
What is the urgency of studying the situation?4
Causes of the conflict6
1.Habitat fragmentation6
2.Indiscriminate killing or injuring of elephants in Nepal7 3.Army establishments7
4.The Siliguri-Alipurduar railway track7
The railway system7
Elephant casualties on the track8
Seasonal mortality records9
Hour-wise mortality records9
High risk zones9
Current conflict management practices10
What needs to be done?14
Works Cited16
Annexure 1: List of Elephants killed on Railway Tracks in North Bengal17 Annexure 2: Following is the list of accidents occurred in and outside the recommended zones19

Elephant-Human Conflict in the Western Duars of North Bengal The Western Duars and the Elephant corridor
The Duars region at the foothills of the eastern Himalayas is a vast swathe of 8,800 sq km terai forests and plains divided by the Sankosh river into two parts, Eastern and Western Duars. Both were ceded by Bhutan to the British at the end of the Bhutan war (1864-'65). The Western Duars lies in the northern West Bengal state and is a lowland belt linking the Himalaya and the plains region. The Western Duars is an important centre of the tea industry. The word Duars (literally, "doors") is derived from the existence of several passes that lead from the region into the Lesser Himalayas (Hoiberg & Ramchandani, 2000). The Asian elephant, in spite of being a shy animal avoiding human contact, needs a huge amount of food and water as also a large living space. It migrates vast distances just in a quest to fulfill its basic needs of food, shelter and mating. Also, when it is peak monsoon in Assam, the elephants migrate westwards in search of less wet areas as excessive water festers germs on their feet. It is this particular behaviour which brings them in contact with the humans without any instigation on anyone's part. The incidence of contact with humans today has increased tremendously, especially in the Western Duars region due to the region being part of a corridor elephants make use of. This corridor, extending from the Sankosh river at the border of Assam to the Mechi river at the border of Nepal is particularly vulnerable for the elephants as well as the people living there as the corridor is not a contiguous stretch of forests as it should ideally be, but is rather many stretches of disjoint forests interspersed manifold with villages. The obvious result is increased human-elephant conflict. Zones in the Corridor

The elephant corridor has been divided into four vulnerable zones (also accorded the vulnerability status from the MoEF in December 2007): •Mechi – Teesta
•Teesta – Diana
•Diana – Torsa
•Torsa – Sankosh
The Teesta – Diana stretch, falling under the JPG Division, is infamous for the most number of elephant deaths while the Torsa – Sankosh stretch covering the JWS and the BTR has the least incidence of elephant deaths. This is in direct proportion to the amount of habitat fragmentation in the region, a fact which will be discussed in detail later in the report. The conflict

As per the last national elephant census conducted in 2005, there were between 25,000 to 28,000 elephants in India, of which some 350 were concentrated in the Western Duars region. Though this is a minuscule 1.5% of the total population, these elephants have been historically blemished with an average of 2.5 human deaths per elephant, probably the highest rate anywhere in Asia where elephants exist (Bist, 1998). And after the latest census in the region on 23rd April 2007 (the results are not yet out), the population is estimated to have jumped to around 400 (Anand, 2007). Though this is not biologically possible in such a short time, the number of migrants from Assam is expected to have increased. The result – even more conflict...
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