ARUNA SAPORI (JORHAT), Nov 9 - Suggesting pragmatic measures to arrest the occasional death and destruction inflicted by herds of marauding wild elephants on both the banks of the Brahmaputra here, �Forest Man of India� Jadav Payeng has mooted largescale plantation of fig, banana and bamboo in the vast sandbars of the mighty Red River, as he claimed to have achieved good results from such experimental forestry in a sandbar near Aruna Sapori within Jorhat district.
An internationally-acclaimed self-made conservationist of the country today, Padma Shri Payeng has observed the peculiar behavioural traits of wild pachyderms from close quarters since the last several decades at his single-handedly tended forest.
The celebrated conservationist has been spending most of his daytime hours planting saplings and nurturing trees in more than 550 hectares of land in the aforementioned sandbar and its adjacent areas, which have subsequently turned out to be a natural habitat of the big cats, migrating elephants, herds of different species of deer and myriad birds over the years.
In order to supplement food for the slatey grey giants, he took great pains to plant banana, fig, bamboo and many other varieties of trees in the man-made jungle, where a herd of wild elephants straying from Kaziranga National Park stayed put for months this year as they could merrily feast on the newly grown trees during the period under review.
�My recent experience has taught me to plant fig, banana and bamboo in the sandbars on a massive scale if we want to keep the herds of marauding wild elephants at bay, at least till the harvesting season is over. As I planted fig, banana and bamboo in 2000 hectares of the sandbar, several wild elephants survived in our jungle for months this year, as they got their required fodder,� said Payeng.
�They will stop moving towards human habitation if their food requirement is made available in the sandbars of the Brahmaputra, which are rarely frequented by human beings.�
However, before leaving his forest recently, the jumbos damaged Payeng�s cow-shed near the forest, that sheltered more than 38 of his milch cows and their calves. �Neither a cow nor a single calf was injured by the elephants in the shed while they were damaging it. How can they be termed wild, if they can show love towards my domestic animals?,� he queried.
According to him, the damage and disturbance caused by the pachyderms can be reduced to a minimum level during the harvesting season if at least 200 hectares of sandbar in each of the upper Assam districts are dedicated to plantation of trees like fig, bamboo and banana, besides many other species, for the elephants.
He said that the herds would not move towards human habitation in different agrarian areas of the State if necessary trees are available as fodder in the sandbars of the Brahmaputra.
�I therefore request both the Central and State governments to introduce such a scheme in Assam on a priority basis. I sincerely think it would be a prudent measure to reduce man-elephant conflict in the days to come,� opined Jadav Payeng.