Gajamitras to check depradation by elephants in Bengal (India)
The Press Trust of India
September 20, 2022
The West Bengal Forest department will employ local youths as 'Gajamitras'
(friends of elephants) in pockets of south Bengal where depradation by wild
elephants is causing serious problems for the local people, state minister
Jyotipriyo Mallick said Tuesday.
The forest department is also introducing an App that can be installed in
mobile phones and be of use to the 'Gajamitras' with real time information
about the movement of herds in their neighborhood and take preventive
measures to stop any clash, Mallick, who holds the forest portfolio told
reporters in his chamber in the Assembly premises.
The youths aspiring to be 'Gajamitras' will undergo thorough screening and
tests to be conducted by a reputed agency.
''The government will have no role whatsoever,'' he said. The 'Gajamitras'
will be given android sets by the forest department for activating the
mobile app, which is yet to be named.
The facility will be extended to the local people later. He said the beat
ranger and divisional forest officer will be connected through the app.
Initially, Jhargram, Paschim Medinipur, and Purulia districts in south
Bengal will be brought under the proposed Gajamitra project and later
extended to Alipurduar and Jalpaiguri in the northern part of the state,
the minister said.
''We have noticed that incidents of rampage by elephants have been more
frequent in the three south Bengal districts. Hence the Gajamitra scheme
will be first rolled out in elephant-infested human habitations in the
Jangalmahal belt and later extended to north Bengal,'' Mullick said.
To a question on measures taken to avert the death of wild elephants while
crossing railway lines in Alipurduar, he said the forest department will
provide the mobile App of loco pilots and station masters so that there is
advance information about any assembling of jumbos on train tracks.
The minister said the department is also looking into the straying of
elephants from Jharkhand to nearby areas in Bengal and ensuring there is no
loss to wildlife.
''At present, there is a herd of 70 elephants at Barjora in Bankura. We are
feeding them and trying to drive them away in a compassionate manner.
Twenty of them have already been driven away,'' he added.