26 September, 2020

Jungle Visas

A centuries-old annual migration must be turned back. On Bengal's Nepal border, man and elephant clash. A conservation effort is on.

Jungle Visas
Handling illegal migration across international borders is always an onerous task. But when the offenders in question are a herd of ninety-odd elephants, the task assumes jumbo proportions. In what was a first operation of its kind—and perhaps the biggest such exercise in the world—the West Bengal forest department successfully thwarted determined attempts by a set of pachyderms to cross the Indo-Nepal border for their annual feast of paddy and corn, driving the herd back into the Mahananda wildlife sanctuary about 60 kilometres from the border. The operation—involving more than 100 foresters, four kunkis (trained jumbos) and a 16-member "hulla party" (who beat drums and generally make noise)— lasted for a fortnight from June 23.

The entire north Bengal region and the eastern part of Nepal has been one contiguous elephant habitat for centuries. "The elephants have always been crossing the Mechi river into Nepal to raid paddy and corn fields. Of late, due to increase in the human population and the conversion of forests into farmland...


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