Elephants face food crisis -The Asian Age

The International Elephant Day passed silently on Saturday. The elephants are not safe in Bangladesh as the forests are being abolished here day by day.

Sources said, the Asian elephants are facing crisis of food in the Bangladesh belt. Often, the elephants come to Rangunia, Raojan, Rajostholi, Satkania, Lohagara, Banshkhali, Potia, Boalkhali in Chittagong and Chokoria, Ramu and other hilly areas of Cox's Bazar. The wild elephants used to damage paddy lands in search of food.

Wild elephants killed villagers at hilly areas of Chittagong and Cox's Bazar. Villagers also killed elephants when they attacked locality in yester years. Meanwhile, the Chittagong district administration has taken step to create banana garden at the hilly areas for  feeding wild elephants. Then Deputy Commissioner of Chittagong Shamsul Arefin discussed the matter in the monthly meeting of Chittagong District Law and Order Committee held at the Chittagong Circuit house on February 19 last.

The meeting has taken decision to save the villagers of hilly areas from the attack of the wild elephants as well as the elephants from the attack of villagers. The meeting decided to send request to the Forest Ministry to create banana garden at the hilly areas for feeding the wild elephants.

Potia Upazila Porishad Chairman Mojaffar Ahamed Chowdhury said, "There is no census of elephants in Bangladesh. We have no areas for elephants in forests. We need sanctuaries for elephants in the forest areas where they can have foods too. If we can do that, the wild elephants will not attack us or damage croplands."

Rangunia Upazila Porishad Chairman Muhammed Ali Shah said, "There is no food at the forest areas of Rajostholi and nearby areas for the wild elephants. So, they use to come to locality at Rangunia from deep forest. We need to create banana garden at the hilly areas for feeding the wild elephants."

The meeting admitted the prevailing crisis and agreed with the local leaders of Chittagong District Law and Order Committee. It decided to save the villagers of hilly areas from the attack of the wild elephants as well as the elephants from the attack of villagers.

In April last Mohammed Hossain (20) was killed by the wild elephant at Bajalia under Satkania upazila in Chittagong. Besides, two others were severely injured in the attack. They were Abul Kalam and Mohammed Monjur, the villagers of the same area.

On the night of December 27 last, one wild elephant was killed at paddy field at Mokamibil under Shadhonpur union in Banshkhali in Chittagong. Sources and locals said, the wild elephant came to paddyland in search of food. But, the elephant was touched with the electric cable causing its death.

Hundreds of villagers came to see the body of the elephant. Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) of Banshkhali Mohammed Sohel said, "The elephant might have contacted live electric wire. Hundreds of locals came to see the body. The officials of administration also went to the spot."

However, the samples from the body of the elephant were sent for forensic test. The body was buried at Banshkhali.
On December 15 last, two persons were killed by wild elephants at Saperghora village in Shilbunia union under Pekua upazila of Cox's Bazar.The victims were Sayed Alam (60) and Mohammed Alamgir (30). Alamgir was son-in-law of another victim Sayed Alam.

Locals said, Alam and Alamgir along with other farmers in the night were guarding their paddyland at Saperghora village of Shilbunia union under Pekua upazila in Cox's Bazar to save crops. But, 20/25 wild elephants came down on the paddy lands, attacked and killed both of them on the spot.

According to the concerned officers, the population of elephants in Bangladesh is declining fast due to loss of their habitat and biotic pressure resulting from deforestation.  Unplanned conversion of forestland into farm land and infrastructure and housing development along 'migration routes' are also causing increased 'human-elephant conflicts'. This conflict leaves 10 to 15 people and five to eight elephants killed in Bangladesh annually.

According to a survey report of 2003, the wild elephant population in Bangladesh varies from 280 to 300.  Sources said, there are 13 'range states' of Asian elephants. These are in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. But many of the Asian countries are yet to develop conservation management plan for the elephants due to lack of resources.