There used to be a time when Central India did not have elephants. Elephants existed in the Nilgiris and to Dandeli in northern Western Ghats and also in Jharkhand and Orissa on the south-eastern region of the country. However, the political boundaries of what was then Madhya Pradesh (now Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh), Bihar, Maharashtra and Goa did not have elephant populations. Such have been the relentless ravages on the elephant habitats of some of these areas, that elephants have steadily migrated to more safe and productive ecosystems. Andhra Pradesh was the first to receive elephants from Tamil Nadu a decade ago and slowly, all the other states also started receiving a few stray herds. Over the years, these populations have become resident through the year, or for most part of it, and thereby newelephant ranges have been created by man.
Maharashtra and Goa have received their share of elephants from northern Karnataka, especially from the Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary and surrounds. These new found migrants into Maharashtra are being met with a combination of surprise, fear, hostility and aggression by the local human populace, most of who have never seen a wild elephant in their lives before. The forest department and district administration are trying their best to tackle the new found issue before it gets out of hand. The Wildlife Trust of India’s conflict mitigation team recently helped the Maharashtra forest department with a workshop on how to deal with the issue and also studied some of the base issues involved. This Occasional Report is therefore of value to all the administration personnel, whether wildlife related or not-of that region of Maharashtra and Goa where these elephants have taken temporary residence.
This report should also prove useful to students of elephant–human conflict mitigation––the conservation issue that is fast threatening to be the number one elephant conservation issue in the country.
Executive Director, WTI