Blame forest fires for man-animal conflicts

          Blame forest fires for man-animal conflicts

17 March 2009

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Orissa, India — The conflict between elephants and human beings has assumed a gargantuan proportion in the recent days. There have been reported incidents of deaths on both sides including huge loss of property.

The reason may be multifarious, but one of them is, no doubt, decrease in the forest cover due to massive industrialisation drive and also for the timber mafia who rampantly fell trees for their personal gains. This results in food crisis of the elephants and that drive them to human habitations leading to man-elephant conflict.

Reports of elephant intruding into villages in the state are common incidents now. Deaths of three people in Bargarh district, loss of crop in Angul and Baudh are the latest incidents. “But deforestation is not the sole reason for elephants or wild animals intruding to human habitations. What counts more is forest fire that makes life miserable for these animals,” said Ms Puspanjali Mahapatra, a social activist with special interest on forest and wild animals.

“It is the wild fires in the forest that forces elephants and other animals to enter into human habitations for a safe shelter,” she added.

“Forest fire during the months of February to April not only harms the elephants but also damages eggs of birds and snakes and kills new born babies of other animals. Since the time is the breeding season for most of the animal species, the damage is just unimaginable,” said a senior official from wild life department requesting not to mention his name. “But neither forest officials nor public are taking care of the forest,” he said with heavy heart. “Nobody feels the loss due to the forest fires,” he lamented further.

The protection of forests is the responsibility of the forest officials because they are paid for it. But the common mass should care for the forest. But it is sad that people have no civic responsibility towards forest and wild life, said some of the forest officials.

Forest fire does more damage than what is done by the timber mafia, smugglers and poachers. But it is true that the forest department is still unsuccessful in utilising their own staff or motivating people nearby in protecting forest.

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