GUWAHATI: To promote harmonious coexistence between wild elephants and humans, a project aimed at enhancing the majestic animal’s habitat and facilitate their unrestricted movement is afoot in the sprawling landscape of Rowta Reserve Forest under the Dhansiri Forest Division in Udalguri district of Assam. The initiative’s core objective is to mitigate confrontations between elephants and humans over a long period of time.
Undertaken by Aaranyak, a biodiversity conservation organisation, the journey toward habitat replenishment began in June and was marked by the planting of more than 25,000 saplings encompassing a variety of tree and shrub species in the area. The targeted region, spanning 100 hectares, is characterised by a diverse mix of grasslands and woodlands, featuring an assortment of soil compositions ranging from sandy to rocky and swampy terrains.
Under the leadership of Dr Bibhuti Prasad Lahkar, a distinguished conservation scientist at the organisation, the project team’s approach is meticulous, driven by the belief that understanding of historical land use and native species is essential for effective restoration. Conservation biologist Dr Alolika Sinha also drew valuable information from the pre-plantation survey conducted in nearby undisturbed forest patches as a crucial source of informed decision-making for species selection.
On August 12, to mark the World Elephant Day, the biodiversity organisation in collaboration with the 61st Battalion of the Samagra Suraksha Bal (SSB), Dhansiri Forest Division, and Dhansiri-Sikaridanga Joint Forest Management Committee (JFMC) undertook a momentous plantation drive in the area, planting 2000 rhizomes of Alpinia – a pivotal fodder species – serving to bolster the security of elephant habitats. The theme of the drive was – “Safeguarding Elephant Habitats for a Sustainable Tomorrow”.
Raj Kumar Xalxo, Commandant of the 61st Battalion SSB, demonstrated unwavering support by allocating 30 personnel who actively participated in the plantation efforts. The joint effort also saw the presence of SSB Deputy Commandant Sunil Kumar. Aaranyak field official Rabiya Daimari expressed profound gratitude for the invaluable collaboration, acknowledging the contributions of various stakeholders, including the SBI Foundation and UNDP.
The execution of this novel initiative, which holds the promise of mitigating Human-elephant conflict (HEC), was driven by a dedicated team of Aaranyak officials including Rabiya Daimari, Didom Daimari, Reshma Narzary, Mondeep Basumatari, Dibakar Nayak, Bikash Tossa, Bineswar Daimari, and Rupam Goyari.
The project recognises the elephant’s expansive habitat requirements and aims to reduce confrontations that often result in property and crop damages, human injuries, and even the tragic loss of lives. This multifaceted issue calls for a collaborative and comprehensive approach, and Aaranyak’s venture is a beacon of hope for promoting peaceful cohabitation between these majestic creatures and people.