Elephants liking paddy will lead to more conflicts: Wildlife experts on Chhattisgarh govt’s ‘experimental’ project


Express News Service

RAIPUR: Wildlife experts have explicitly called the decision of the Chhattisgarh government’s decision to use the surplus quantity of available paddy to feed the wild elephants “misconceived and inadvisable.”

The plan is to be launched shortly by the state forest department as a pilot project in districts witnessing the movement of wild tuskers.

“The Indian elephants are endangered Schedule-1 animals. Section 32 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 says ‘a ban on use of injurious substances’. No person shall use chemicals, explosives or any other substance that may cause injury or endanger any wildlife in a sanctuary. So, the action of the Chhattisgarh government apparently stands in violation of the given Act. If the paddy gets rotten in open forest, it might cause disease for elephants or wildlife”, asserted K K Bisen, former chief conservator of forest, who had extensive groundwork on behaviours of pachyderms.

Similarly, Amalendu Mishra, State Wildlife Advisory Board member, who follows movements of wild elephants in north Chhattisgarh, dubbed the decision as ‘unwise’. “Not a good initiative. The paddy is not their main food”, he said.

Prakash Sasha of the Elsa Foundation, organisation devoted to elephant welfare, expressed surprise over the plan of the state government. “There are sufficient food available for elephants in the forest. But if they become addicted to a new taste of the farm produce (paddy) then it will further aggravate the human-elephant conflict, in case the wild tuskers didn’t get the paddy in future”, said Sasha.

Wildlife enthusiasts too were baffled with the latest move of the state. “How could such initiative check the existing conflict or safeguard the human habitats? The paddy is not their natural diet and we should not try to change their diet pattern as this is against the principals of wildlife conservation. Chhattisgarh’s extensive forest already provide varieties as food to these wild elephants”, affirmed Nitin Singhvi, wildlife enthusiast.

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However, the state forest minister Mohammed Akbar finds nothing wrong with the decision. “It’s better to keep doing an experiment rather than to sit and do nothing”, he said.

His colleague and the state food minister Amarjeet Bhagat said, “We already have surplus paddy and there is no harm in carrying such trials to utilise the stored paddy so as to minimise the man-animal conflict”.

The Chhattisgarh State Cooperative Marketing Federation that executes the paddy procurement process under support price scheme has written to the forest department over making available the paddy procured during 2019-20 in those districts witnessing the movement of wild tuskers.

The divisional forest officers (DFOs) of nine districts have been apprised regarding the availability of paddy at various procurement centres at a high price Rs 2095 per quintal.

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