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Experts Monitor 'Musth' Elephant That Killed Five in Assam's Goalpara, To Soon Decide Its Fate

Loss of elephant habitat is linked to expanding Areca nut plantations in the Garo Hills district and increase in rubber plantations along Assam-Meghalaya border in Assam's Goalpara district.

Karishma Hasnat | CNN-News18

Updated:November 14, 2019, 7:50 PM IST
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Experts Monitor 'Musth' Elephant That Killed Five in Assam's Goalpara, To Soon Decide Its Fate
The elephant was traced with the help of a drone.

The Assam Forest Department successfully ended its search for an elephant thought to have killed five people in the state's Goalpara district last month. The elephant was traced with the help of a drone on Friday, and its movement is being monitored.

The state government set up an eight-member team to decide on the fate of the animal- they would take a decision soon to either translocate the elephant or domesticate it in a kraal. The panel of experts have also prepared a map to assess the trail of deaths left by the elephant, which would help them monitor its movement and behaviour accurately.

Kaushik Baruah, honorary wildlife warden and an elephant expert said that according to its behavioural pattern, the animal seemed to be in "musth" or mating period.

Assam has seen a rise in man-elephant conflict this year, with the death toll amounting to 28 elephants and 41 humans. The eight-member committee is also gearing up to implement long-term measures to reduce chances of such conflict, and promote peaceful coexistence between villagers and elephants.

"With elephant habitat becoming patchy, fragmented and degraded, the worst is yet to be seen. Moreover, with Meghalaya resorting to commercial rubber plantation in the Garo Hills by converting elephant habitats, one just can't keep on blaming elephants for conflict,” said Kaushik Baruah.

Speaking to News18, Sachin Gavade, Divisional Forest Officer, West and South-West Garo Hills (Territorial) Division, Tura linked the loss of elephant habitat to the expanding Areca nut plantation in the Garo Hills district, and increase in rubber plantation along Assam-Meghalaya border in the Goalpara district of Assam. He explained that elephants from Garo Hills were moving towards Assam in search of vegetation.

“The government-reserved forests and national park in Meghalaya constitute approximately 4.5% of the state’s geographical area, and the remaining part of the district lies with the community. In Garo Hills, it is part of the Akhing land, and the Nokma, who is the guardian of the land, decides how to use it – they can convert it into biodiversity or community reserve. Animal habitat is under threat because of Areca nut plantation in every corner outside protected areas. And rubber plantation is high along the Assam-Meghalaya border in Goalpara,” said Gavade.

"Urban planning and infrastructural development are other hurdles in conservation of elephant habitat. Fragmentation of habitat is taking place because of developmental activities," he added. 

The Dibru Hill Reserved Forest in West Garo Hills covers an area of 15.02 square kilometer, but because of degradation and land use, elephants move out in search of food, and often enter Assam. Garo hills is bounded by Goalpara district of Assam on the north, and shares international boundary with Bangladesh on the south.

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