KARMA CHIMI | Thimphu
A herd of elephants are frequenting border villages in Sarpang every night and is trampling crops and destroying livelihoods.
With no other measures, the farmers of Barshong under Sershong gewog and Chaskar, Dawathang, and neighboring villages under Chuzagang gewog, Sarpang are spending sleepless nights guarding their just transplanted paddy against the ire of the tuskers.
Since the elephant menace in the southern foothills is becoming more frequent and graver by the year, farmers have been forced to spend sleepless nights to save their crops and fruits.
The most rudimentary way to deter elephants from destroying their fields is that farmers have to guard their fields often risking their lives. The farmers make loud noises or beat empty cans, or use powerful torchlights and fires as deterrents to drive away encroaching herds.
However, guarding, if not done with optimal caution, is extremely dangerous and accounts for a large number of human-elephant conflicts often resulting in deaths.
Karchung from Barshong village whose paddy was damaged by a herd of elephants last week said that the farmers have to go to the Maokhola riverside at night to stop marauding elephants from entering into their fields.
He said, “Every night a herd of elephants comes from the riverside and damages our paddy fields. We cultivate rice once a year and the harvest is our only sustenance. But this time the prospect of harvesting is very bleak because the crops are being destroyed by the elephants.”
Rishi Ram Dungana from upper Chaskar said that the farmers go in groups to the entry points of elephants and stay there after making a fire to drive away the tuskers. However, he said it is challenging as the elephants do not stay in one place and keeps changing their entry points.
The farmer said that now elephants have even started to put off the fire with tree leaves and bushes. “The elephants are no more frightened by fire,” he added.
Another farmer from lower Chaskar, Damber Chhetri said that farmers have to brave the mosquito and have to remain awake through the night. However, he said that it is difficult to stay the whole night without falling asleep.
He said that elephants have evolved and become clever. Damber said that the elephants enter the field when the farmers go to sleep.
Loknath Adhikari from the same village shared the fears of encountering these beasts, not many villagers cooperate to guard at night as it killed people recently. “We have to risk our lives to save crops.”
Damber Karariya and Dilliram Adhikari from Dawathang village shared that there is no proper solution to solve this wildlife conflict. They said farmers have been complaining to the officials but nothing concrete has come out.
Dilliram Adhikari said, “People need crops for sustenance but wild animals destroy it. I think we should review the wildlife policy and look into the matter when the wild animals kill humans and damage our elements of livelihood.”
The elephants have caused extensive damage to the vegetables, fruits, and crops not even sparing their harvested crops which are stocked at the barns. Last week the harvested maize along with the barns were destroyed by the elephants in Chaskar.
Meanwhile, forest officials are attending to every complaint of the farmers and trying to chase away the elephants. However, the Range Officer of Gelephu Range, Lhapchu Tshering said the shortage of forest officials is one of the biggest impediments.
He said that the jumbos roam in herds from Sarpang to Chuzgang and it is difficult to tackle them.