A talk on early communication and warning systems in human-elephant conflict management was held at the Bee museum on the 4th of December. The speaker Dr Anand Kumar, a wildlife scientist at the Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) at Valparai started the talk by emphasizing the importance of involving the local communities in the management of elephant-human conflict and also increasing their tolerance towards elephant presence in altered landscapes.
The predominance of elephant-human conflict in the Valparai plateau due to rainforest fragmentation has led to negative interactions between people and elephants.The research team at NCF has established a conflict response unit (CRU) with local tribal people to track elephants in human inhabited areas until they move into surrounding protected areas. Based on the information from CRU, local informants, and the Forest Department personnel, three kinds of early warning measures are deployed to alert people about elephant presence within plantations and reduce fatal encounters with elephants: message on cable television network, bulk SMS, and mobile-operated flashing red LED lights in strategic locations.
The project is researching the effectiveness of such measures, by monitoring and quantifying conflict incidents, response calls received from people to early warning messages, and adoption of methods by the local community. The research has important applications in developing sustainable participation by local community and application of early warning measures in the management of human-elephant conflicts in fragmented landscapes.
A lively discussion followed the presentation and several members of the NNHS stated the importance of adopting similar programs in tackling man-animal conflicts in the Nilgiris.