A tusker in Chapramari forest, Dooars – life at stake! [Image source]
Thursday late night, 5 elephants of which one was an expectant mother, lost lives apparently due to lightning. The place where they died is a vast terrain of dry Raidak river in Kumargram, bordering Dooars in North Bengal. Since the area has no cover, it is possible that the elephants were felled by lightning.
However, their viscera have been sent to lab for detail analyses to find out the exact reason of their unfortunate demise.
Tragic though the incident looks, there is no immediate solution to the problem. Every year this time onward and in late winter, hordes of elephants travel fairly long distance, coming as they do from Bhutan to north Bengal, in search of food and water.
In the south of Bengal too, the giants leave Dalma forests in Jharkhand and other adjoining forests in Purulia and West Medinipur and come to farmland for food. They invade through crops and grasslands for their own feeding and that of their offspring.
And then the fight begins between them and the farmers and forest-wood collectors. Poor people die and elephants too get killed or injured grievously. Since elephants are known to move in their known corridors, the fact is the forest cover is so fast depleting that they’re left with no option than to stray away.
In Dooars, the problem is further aggravated by fast moving trains plying on rail lines that pass directly through the dense forests. As a result, elephants, bison, leopards and other wild animals getting fatally hit have become a routine affair. Authorities at long last are paying attention to this totally avoidable problem.
But what about deceasing forest cover? It needs no expert to tell that as long as people there remain so poor that they have to per se depend on forestland to earn 2 square meals a day, there cannot be any improvement in the man versus beast struggle.
The onus is squarely on the government to ensure that animals have their freedom as much as people have theirs. In any case, if forests are cut down, what will that ultimately result to is something even a child understands. Unfortunately, the government doesn’t.