In India’s Assam region, there is an increasing conflict between animals and people based around the encroachment into wildlife habitats by a variety of human endeavors. The Australian Broadcast Corporation reported this week on the issue in Assam of Asian elephants running out of places to eat, take shelter, and… find critical migratory passages.
ABC quoted Indian conservationist and filmmaker Rita Banerji, who told them "From the month of September to December every year, every day in almost every part [of India] you have elephant and human encounters.” A huge part of this is the blocking of pathways the elephants have travelled for thousands of years. "Earlier, there were continuous forests from one area to the other and the migratory path of the elephant is called the elephant corridor,” she explained. In some cases elephants become trapped in forests that grow smaller by the day due to population growth and rapid industrialization.
The elephants are raiding farmer’s food crops to eat by day, while taking shelter in farmed fields of tea and other plantations at night, taking a heavy toll on the crops. The conflicts often turn violent. The Assam region’s 6,000 wild Asian elephants face poisoning by angry farmers, poachers seeking elephant wares for the nearby market in China, electrocutions (some intentional), and strikes by road vehicles and trains. 70 were said to be killed in 2018.
ABC reported on one example of the crisis, in which mobs of angry people were throwing rocks and taunting elephants taking shelter in a farmed field, who are only removed hours later by rangers who aggressively herd the elephants by revving engines of vehicles and lighting explosives to scare them. They said panicked elephants scattered, mothers separated from babies, leading to an angry mother charging a ranger who opens fire with plastic bullets. ABC said that the area is facing a perfect storm of growing human population and infrastructure, outmanned law enforcement leaving farmers on their own, and elephants running out of food, and places to live.