11th January 2010

I got a frantic call from Nagaraj this morning to say the elephants have trashed our bananas. It was so unbelievable that all I could think of is how come he’d only noticed at 11.30 am. Turns out there was no electricity to charge his phone and he could only call once the current was back. The long and the short of it is that they had a field day with my bananas and have left just 15 trees standing. They’ve also broken the bore well pipe, and about 10 fencing chappadis. The most remarkable thing is that they’ve been right up to our cottages and have left footprints all around the oven and next to the compost pit. I bet they were drinking out of the pond as well.

They seem to have come in from Rame Gowda’s farm and then wandered all over. Near the El, in the togri field, through the banana field, next to the outdoor kitchen. They’ve even eaten the banana trees next to our cottage! And Nagaraj never heard a thing. Silently in and silenty out. In the morning, the only evidence that they’ve been around – the felled trees, some dung and footprints. Nagaraj describes the footprints as being 2 feet in diameter.

About a month ago, around the time that Rame Gowda was visited by elephants, the forest department had sent an alert to the surrounding villages. Every time we went up the hill, either Nagaraj or Nagamma would warn us to not go into the forest as there was a rumour flying around about a woman having been trampled to death. But I never thought they’d come so close. While I knew bears come by, I never dreamed we’d have elephants on the farm.

I remember a news report last year about elephants having destroyed the banana fields of one Rangappa of Nayakanapallya near Savandurga causing him huge losses. And yet another report about a young Hakki Pikki boy being trampled outside Bannerghatta Reserve. Here is an extract from that report:

“Wildlife experts and members of the Institute for Natural Resources Conservation, Education, Research and Training (INCERT) point out that decades ago wild elephants foraged regularly for food and water in and around Bannerghatta, which was part of an elephant corridor. Herds of elephants migrate from Bandipur towards Bannerghatta and from there to Hassan via the Savandurga forest.

There are six villages within the park and 236 villages surrounding it with a population of nearly 50,000. Illegal grazing by nearly 10,000 head of cattle, goat and sheep is a permanent feature in the park. These animals compete with the elephants for fodder.

Sugarcane, coconut, banana, papaya and pineapple plantations and ragi crops around Tataguni, Bannerghatta, Toorhalli, Kaggalipura and near the Agara dam tempt the elephants to leave the safety of the forests to forage for food near human habitations, they say.

An INCERT member says the trenches dug by the Forest Department to prevent elephants from crossing the boundaries of the national park have proved ineffective. The villagers fill up the trenches to take their cattle for grazing.”

We are just a few kilometers away from Savandurga and at the base of a range of connected hills and reserve forest. While 6 leopards have been recorded here and it is very much bear territory, elephants haven’t been recorded here. As mentioned in an earlier blog, the last sighting was 11 years ago. But it is very plausible corridor terrain as it sort connects Kanakpura, Savandurga, Kollegal and Bannerghatta. Also, the increasing loss of habitat thanks to burgeoning Bangalore city and illegal mining in the area are hard realities. Zui made a small film about the leopard that strayed into a gated community on Magadi Road recently. This was several kilometers before Tavarakere, no forest anywhere in sight. Can you imagine how far the leopard had to stray from its natural habitat in order to get there?

So…what can I say, you reap what you sow, no? Serves us jolly well right for sowing bananas (albeit just ½ acre) so close to elephant territory.


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