Man-animal conflict in India is a significant one where animal encroachments on agricultural land leave massive amounts of crop damage in its wake.
However, Indian farmers in the Coimbatore circle have resorted to technological solutions in tackling this problem.
Farmers and foresters, in a WhatsApp group of over 200 people, are helping the Forest Department in tackling the issue with real-time updates.
How the WhatsApp group is aiding those affected
The Conservator of Forests (Coimbatore circle), S. Ramasubramanian, said that the WhatsApp group was one of the more successful methods introduced by the Forest Department in Coimbatore to handle the man-animal conflict in the circle.
The WhatsApp group also includes some forest range officers for faster information dissemination and deployment of required staff.
S. Ramasubramanian talks about the initiative
"Farmers who are members of the group alert on any instance of animal movement. Forest range officers are also members of the group. Upon receiving an alert, our staff will be deployed at the spot to handle the issue," said Ramasubramanian.
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The magnitude of the man-wildlife conflict in the Coimbatore circle
In the last year, almost 60 villages across over 10 areas in the Coimbatore circle faced encroachment on farmlands by elephants.
In numbers, more than 1,000 instances of encroachment by wild elephants has been faced over the last three years.
Another peculiarity is that quite a number of affected villages lie at a considerable distance of 2-5km away from forest boundaries.
Factors contributing to the man-animal conflict in the Coimbatore circle
There were several reasons identified for the man-wildlife conflict in the Coimbatore circle.
Crop patterns along forest borders, and cultivation of crops which attract elephants were among the prime agricultural reasons.
Furthermore, conversion of forest lands for commercial and residential purposes, and construction of places of worship and other institutions close to forests were also found to exacerbate the conflict.