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Every year more than 400 people and a hundred proboscides lose their lives due to the passage of elephants through inhabited areas in India, through whose territory 88 corridors for these mammals extend, according to data from the NGO Fund for the Fauna of India (WTI, in English).
Neighbors of former Ram Terang, in the eastern state of Assam, suffered from this problem for generations, with pachyderms bent on sticking their tubes into their crops.
It is, however, a kind of love-hate relationship, since these tribal locals are "very affectionate" with elephants, which they affectionately call "baba" or father, explained to EFE Rupa Gandhi, deputy director of WTI, organization in charge of the transfer of the village.
Perhaps that is why the 19 families “voluntarily” agreed to pack their bags, and leave their lands, and their bamboo and thatched roof houses behind forever last February.
Although the expectation of staying in the new red brick and green roofed houses equipped with kitchen, drainage system and toilet that make up the new Ram Terang, about 6 kilometers from the original village, probably also favored their decision.
According to Gandhi, conditions are much better in the current town, where solar panels have even been installed while waiting for an electrical system, compared to the “inadequate” homes in the previous enclave that offered little protection against the pachyderms.
The move, therefore, has taken time
With the support of the British organization Elephant Family, chaired by Prince Charles, WTI bought the land for the new village in 2013, two years later the neighbors began cultivating the land and at the beginning of last month, they finally began to move.
"It takes between 5 and 7 years to complete this type of move," explained the deputy director, who was nevertheless optimistic that the period will be shorter in the case of her next mission in the village of Tokolangso.
The town is located in the same corridor as the old Ram Terang, so its 23 families have already been exposed to the project and have shown their “willingness to move”.
Together, the movement of these two populations will provide a "safe passage" for about 1,800 pachyderms, Gandhi said.
"Elephants are constantly on the move" as they need a large amount of food. And they always do it through the same corridor thanks to “their fantastic memory” to remember the safe paths, a “knowledge” that, according to the director, passes from mothers to babies.
WTI project manager Sandeep Tiwari estimates that at least half of the country's elephant corridors have "some human habitation problem."
In overcrowded India, dozens of elephants are killed annually by being run over on highways, electrified by cables or poisoned by humans.
In Assam, where Ram Terang is located, some tribes even consume its meat and there have been cases of pachyderms run over by trains whose bodies had disappeared when the authorities arrived the next morning, after being picked up by the locals “for a feast. ”, As Tiwari highlighted to EFE.
However, the biologist is not concerned with these "low" incidence phenomena, but rather with the "loss of habitat and its fragmentation", that is, its division into sections.
"Land change due to development, housing, agriculture or industry has led to fragmentation," he explained.
In this regard, the Professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Delhi C.R. Babu warns that the elephant's habitat "is sinking dramatically" not only in "size but also in terms of quality."
"The meadows are being replaced by weeds and these are not eaten by any animal, not even an insect," he warned in statements to EFE.
Food shortages are also, in his view, the reason that animals are entering areas dominated by humans.
With Ram Terang, WTI has moved four villages and, although Tiwari assures that these projects are considered “a model of a win-win situation”, it seems that there is still a long corridor to go.
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