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Army wants elephants relocated from Assam wildlife sanctuary, cites ‘damages of Rs 15 lakh’

The request was made in a letter written on 3 July but has come to light now following an RTI plea by environmental activist Rohit Choudhury. It was addressed to Assam chief secretary.

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Guwahati: The Army has sought the help of the Assam government to “relocate” wild elephants from the Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary, which is situated on the outskirts of Guwahati and shares a 5-6 km boundary with the Narengi Military Station. 

In a letter written to the Assam government, Major General Jarken Gamlin, the General Officer Commanding of Headquarters 51 Sub Area, Narengi Cantonment, said elephants cause “substantial damage not only to infrastructure but also to critical logistic stores” at the station. 

The letter was written on 3 July but has come to light now following an RTI plea by environmental activist Rohit Choudhury. It was addressed to the then chief secretary Kumar Sanjay Krishna, who retired last month. 

The sanctuary is estimated to be home to around 50 elephants. In the letter, Gamlin particularly raised concerns about “three elephants that have caused maximum damages”.

“With ever increasing threat to life and property, the only workable option available, to my mind, is to relocate these elephants,” he said, adding that the “frequency of these attacks have increased in the last six months resulting in losses to the tune of Rs 15 lakh approximately and still counting (sic)”.

He said the station served as the “logistic hub” for the Army in Northeast. In 2002, he added, the Army initiated a project to install iron barricades to keep elephants away from “critical assets”. However, in 2019, the rows of sharp iron spikes had to be removed “due to safety concerns for elephants raised by the Forest Department”, he wrote.

Two elephants suspected to have stepped on the spikes had died of septicemia in 2018-2019, while several others were injured. 

“Since the dismantling of the iron barricade, cases of elephant depredation have increased. In addition, there have also been instances wherein unsuspecting soldiers and their families have been attacked by the elephants,” the letter said. 

Stating that the Army is committed towards “peaceful coexistence with the wildlife of Guwahati”, Gamlin added that the state should consider compensating the Army for the losses “in case relocation of elephants is not a feasible proposition”.

“…Resorting to sterner measures to ward off these elephants at our end may not be desirable,” he said.


Also Read: Animals have come home. Covid-19 lockdown gives control back into nature’s hands


‘Elephants were always there’

Speaking to ThePrint, an Army officer said a family of three elephants has been causing trouble at the station. “We have been living peacefully with elephants inside the station, and sometimes they come in a herd of 20 and leave without any disturbance. But since the past few weeks, a family of three is causing trouble,” the officer added. 

Wildlife conservationist Kaushik Baruah, an honorary wildlife warden under the Assam Forest Department, said the Army also needs to take some measures to keep the elephants away. 

“The Army needs to stop feeding the elephants and also ensure proper disposal of garbage,” Baruah added. “Elephants were always there. The base came later. The entire area was once part of the Amchang forest.”


Also Read: Human-animal conflict is clear & present danger, and India can’t afford to ignore it


 

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1 COMMENT

  1. I was going to ask about the extremely cruel spikes. Equivalent to mouth bombs. Move elephants. But they are unreasoning animals. Humans moved there and NOW you want to cause more calamity by moving from their instinctual paths? Move the Army and move the people! Didn’t govts put people there refugees all around and on the elephants pathways? Move people to the mountain ridges where there is no habitat that can attract elephants. The Army should be in the mountains anyway for training purposes not the undulating land the elephants use. It’s impossible to remove the instinct from the elephants, but, humans can make choices, so make the right ones based on the environment you have in India.

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