The Bangalore Mirror, a large English language daily in Karnataka, spoke to experts about elephant conflicts after viewing "Elephants in the Coffee."
The documentary promotes efforts of co-existence between coffee farmers and elephants in the Western Ghats of India, where conflicts over agriculture have become a huge threat to elephants and people. The newspaper consulted two experts.
"Conservationist Padma Ashok is also of the opinion that co-existence is the only way forward. She opines that solutions need to be thought of by people local to the area, by taking into consideration the topography, landscape and geographical features of the area. 'From the elevation to the length of the river in that area, everything matters. And you need a combination of two-three solutions to tackle the problem, because elephants are able to outsmart most,' she says."
While Padma Ashok's idea seems quite sensible to us, there are other views, as the Mirror pointed out.
"Praveen Bhargav, former member of the National Board for Wildlife, believes harmonious co-existence is 'one of the greatest myths in conservation', a utopian idea that 'rarely works in the long term with most conflict-prone large mammals.' He advocates 'site-specific solutions driven by scientific knowledge and a deep understanding of the social context'.
"He adds: 'Loss of a family member is tragic but it must be seen in perspective. In Karnataka alone, more than 10,000 people have lost their lives in road accidents in 2015 while around 15 people have died due to elephant conflict. Large swathes of elephant habitat have been fragmented/lost due to agriculture, human settlements, encroachments, dams, highways, resorts etc which is a major driver of conflict. There is no magical solution but conflict can be minimised by spatially separating humans and large wildlife to the extent possible by deflecting developmental projects, preventing ad-hoc grants of public lands by the revenue department, incentive-driven voluntary resettlements and innovative ideas for creating viable buffers around reserves involving local communities. In some specific cases, marooned, isolated population of elephants may have to be moved out to minimise conflict.'"
As D.K. Bhaskar has long maintained, saving elephants will not be easy, and it needs to start with many serious conversations like this about what is the best approach
Dr. Thomas Grant
Professor of Journalism at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College