By: BAPPY KHAN
The environment and nature suffer from irreversible damage due to climate change, which humans primarily cause. This is exacerbated by population growth, leading to corrupt and abusive practices that destroy forests. As a result, wild animals are experiencing depletion of their food sources and are raiding human settlements and crops. Unfortunately, this often results in prematurely losing animal lives, particularly elephants, the primary prey. The habitat of these magnificent animals is gradually shrinking over time.
During the season of ripe paddy, the production of elephants increases in the border and forest areas. They attack paddy fields in search of food. As a result, farmers connect electricity with the GI cable provided to protect crops. Elephants have died in several areas in Satkania and Srivardi, including Sherpur, after falling into those electric traps. Chittagong-Cox’s Bazar area has a significant habitat for elephants but is getting smaller.
Elephant Killing in Bangladesh
Over the past 17 years, 90 elephants have been killed by humans in the Chittagong-Cox’s Bazar area, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Forest Department. In 2020 alone, 11 elephants lost their lives – seven from electrocution and the rest from being shot.
At the close of the previous century, the country had a population of 500 elephants, but as of 2019, there are only 263 left. Of these, 55% live in Cox’s Bazar. The Forest Department has recorded 133 deaths from elephant attacks in the past six years, with 14 cases of elephant killing. However, no cases have been resolved, no individuals have been found guilty, and no legal precedent has been established. If this continues, the elephant population in the country could become extinct within a few decades.
Two-thirds of elephants have lost their habitat in Asia.
Forests are being destroyed. Habitat is being built in the mountains. Increased human traffic. And that’s why elephants are refugees. A study published in the journal Scientific Research revealed elephant habitat loss. The research report was published recently. A group of experts led by Shermin De Silva, a professor of biology at the University of California, was involved in the research. It shows that the animal’s forest and grassland habitat has declined by about 64% since 1700, in terms of an area of about 3.3 million square kilometres. According to the research team, this situation can change if proper planning is done to conserve elephant habitat. Studies show that most elephant habitats have been destroyed in China.
Between 1700 and 2015, the country lost 94% of its habitable habitat. About 86% of elephant habitat has been destroyed in India. Also, nearly half of elephant habitat has been destroyed in Bangladesh, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia. Even in Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Nepal, elephant habitat has declined significantly.
According to the study, elephant habitats have been rapidly destroyed in Asia since the expansion of European colonization around 1700. It is said that activities such as deforestation, road construction, mineral extraction and dam construction increased rapidly during the colonial period. At the same time, the amount of agricultural work on the land also increased, which has a direct impact on wildlife habitat.
According to the study, India and Sri Lanka currently have the largest number of elephants among South Asian countries. After the shock of colonization, the industrial revolution in the middle of the last century acted as a second wave of elephant habitat destruction.
It is said that nowadays, people are expanding their activities more and more into forest areas for agriculture and extraction of mineral resources. This often creates conflicts between elephants and humans.
Besides, political and social events have also been blamed for the loss of elephant habitat. Meanwhile, in 2017, the Rohingyas, a minority community of Rakhine State, came to Bangladesh and took refuge in Bangladesh after being tortured by Myanmar’s army.
About 1.4 million Rohingya refugees live in the world’s largest refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar. But this region was once a critical habitat for elephants.
According to researchers, establishing a refugee camp for Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazar has caused severe problems in the normal movement of elephants along the border between Bangladesh and Myanmar.
When the natural habitat is destroyed, the elephants enter the human-inhabited areas in search of new habitats, and subsequently, many problems occur.
In 2021, such an incident happened in China’s southwestern province of Yunnan. A herd of elephants roamed an area of about 500 km from the reserve area of the province. This caused panic among millions of people in the province and caused millions of dollars in damage, including large quantities of crops.
Where is the crisis?
Forest department officials say compensation for crop damage due to elephants has increased the price. Various assistance has been extended. But the killing of elephants cannot be prevented in any way.
Elephants are being blocked at various places. Elephants are entering crop fields due to food shortages due to deforestation.
Many people are killing elephants by making traps to protect crop fields.
Development is taking place in various places, Rohingya settlements have been established in most of the hilly areas of Teknaf. The conflict between elephants and humans over food is increasing due to shrinking habitats. People are also being made aware in various ways. Yet elephants are dying. Cases have been filed at various times. No one has been convicted in any case.
Why is the killing of elephants now increasing?
Eleven elephant movement corridors have been identified in Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar areas. Four corridors under Chittagong South Forest Division are Chunti-Satghar, Laltia-Barduara, Sukhvilas-Kodala and Nadichcha-Kodala. Cox’s Bazar North Forest Division includes three – Ukhia-Ghumdhum, Tulabagan-Panerchhra, and Naikshyongchari-Rajarpool.
Many of the elephant movement corridors are outside the forest. There are Khas, Forest, and Private Land. Who will maintain it?
For this, the forest department cannot do it alone, we need a multi-sectoral arrangement. Railways also have to save elephants, forests also have to be protected. If you can’t unite everyone, there will be no elephants.”
Many conflicts can be reduced if it is possible to monitor the movement of elephants with the help of technology. South India has achieved success in both these respects. Here too, conflict can be reduced using compensation and technology.
People will be harmed, you will get compensation. If they are so desperate, the elephants cannot be kept. This is very alarming. We need a thing where there is no crime.