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Bhutan calls for contiguous forest belt

By SIVASISH THAKUR
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GUWAHATI, Nov 6 � The raging man-elephant conflict in Assam is also having its resonances in the bordering nation of Bhutan, with the Bhutan Forest authorities attributing the phenomenon to �habitat degradation in India� and �large-scale tea plantation.�

The conservationists from Bhutan also suggested formation of an uninterrupted green corridor -- as part of enhanced trans-border cooperation in conservation -- by according protection to the contiguous belts of forests in the three countries. This, in fact, had been conceived decades back but failed to materialize for want of �political will.����

Bhutan shares a long international border with Assam, and the Assam-side of the border which is fast parting with its green cover has been a focal point of the escalating man-elephant conflict. This, in turn, is triggering a similar conflict situation in Bhutan, with more and more elephant herds moving to the Bhutan side in search for space and food.

Dasho Palijor J Dorjee, Special Advisor to National Environment Commission, Government of Bhutan, made this observation at �Elephant Talk � Asian Elephants in the Wild: a Dialogue� here today.

Organized by Balipara Foundation, the two-day conclave on diffusing man-elephant conflicts in Bhutan-India-Myanmar is being attended by a host of elephant experts and conservationists from South East Asia.

Dorjee and Sonam Wangdi from the Department of Forest and Park Services, Bhutan, said that notwithstanding strict laws for protection of wildlife habitat, the man-elephant conflict was being witnessed in the country, especially in areas bordering India.

�The conflict intensifies during the period from March to September coinciding with the cropping season. Paddy is harvested in September, and the elephants give a helping hand to the farmers,� Wangdi said in a lighter vein.

Stating that Bhutan jungles shelter some 800 elephants across an elephant habitat of 2,000 sq, Wangdi said that elephants were known to move up to altitudes as high as 3,000 metres.

Dorjee who has been the initiator of many conservation programmes in Bhutan said that the matter of establishing a green corridor connecting the forests of Bhutan, India and Myanmar should again be taken up.

�It failed to materialize because lack of political will forced the donors to back out. But we can again think on similar lines. This can go a long way in securing elephant habitats and their contiguity, and can be a long-term answer to the man-elephant conflict,� he said.

Earlier, Prof Raman Sukumar from the Centre of Ecological Studies who was also a member of the first Elephant task Force of India, dwelt on the causes of the worsening man-elephant conflict in India and suggested remedial measures.

Prof Sukumar said that notwithstanding conflict with humans triggered mainly by habitat loss and fragmentation, India and Sri Lanka still had sustainable elephant populations unlike in most other South East Asian nations where elephant numbers have plummeted.

�The elephant populations in India and Sri Lanka have increased in recent decades, and this holds hope for the future. But securing a safe future for the pachyderms warrant protection and restoration of both habitat and corridors,� he said.

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Bhutan calls for contiguous forest belt

GUWAHATI, Nov 6 � The raging man-elephant conflict in Assam is also having its resonances in the bordering nation of Bhutan, with the Bhutan Forest authorities attributing the phenomenon to �habitat degradation in India� and �large-scale tea plantation.�

The conservationists from Bhutan also suggested formation of an uninterrupted green corridor -- as part of enhanced trans-border cooperation in conservation -- by according protection to the contiguous belts of forests in the three countries. This, in fact, had been conceived decades back but failed to materialize for want of �political will.����

Bhutan shares a long international border with Assam, and the Assam-side of the border which is fast parting with its green cover has been a focal point of the escalating man-elephant conflict. This, in turn, is triggering a similar conflict situation in Bhutan, with more and more elephant herds moving to the Bhutan side in search for space and food.

Dasho Palijor J Dorjee, Special Advisor to National Environment Commission, Government of Bhutan, made this observation at �Elephant Talk � Asian Elephants in the Wild: a Dialogue� here today.

Organized by Balipara Foundation, the two-day conclave on diffusing man-elephant conflicts in Bhutan-India-Myanmar is being attended by a host of elephant experts and conservationists from South East Asia.

Dorjee and Sonam Wangdi from the Department of Forest and Park Services, Bhutan, said that notwithstanding strict laws for protection of wildlife habitat, the man-elephant conflict was being witnessed in the country, especially in areas bordering India.

�The conflict intensifies during the period from March to September coinciding with the cropping season. Paddy is harvested in September, and the elephants give a helping hand to the farmers,� Wangdi said in a lighter vein.

Stating that Bhutan jungles shelter some 800 elephants across an elephant habitat of 2,000 sq, Wangdi said that elephants were known to move up to altitudes as high as 3,000 metres.

Dorjee who has been the initiator of many conservation programmes in Bhutan said that the matter of establishing a green corridor connecting the forests of Bhutan, India and Myanmar should again be taken up.

�It failed to materialize because lack of political will forced the donors to back out. But we can again think on similar lines. This can go a long way in securing elephant habitats and their contiguity, and can be a long-term answer to the man-elephant conflict,� he said.

Earlier, Prof Raman Sukumar from the Centre of Ecological Studies who was also a member of the first Elephant task Force of India, dwelt on the causes of the worsening man-elephant conflict in India and suggested remedial measures.

Prof Sukumar said that notwithstanding conflict with humans triggered mainly by habitat loss and fragmentation, India and Sri Lanka still had sustainable elephant populations unlike in most other South East Asian nations where elephant numbers have plummeted.

�The elephant populations in India and Sri Lanka have increased in recent decades, and this holds hope for the future. But securing a safe future for the pachyderms warrant protection and restoration of both habitat and corridors,� he said.

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