Bhubaneswar, Oct 13 (LocalWire): The state government has engaged around 50 ‘Gaja Bandhus’ (friends of elephants) for an honorarium of Rs 9,000 under the Management of Elephant Corridors initiative in an attempt to arrest the man-elephant conflict.
The engagement of Gaja Bandhus is being carried out in a phased manner in elephant depredated forest divisions of the state.
As Athgarh and Dhenkanal forest divisions are currently worst hit by elephant depredation, the scheme has been launched in these two forest divisions from 1 October.
While Dhenkanal division has engaged 30 Gaja Bandhus, Athgarh division has enrolled 20 of them, said state forest department officials.
‘Twenty villages were identified where elephant menace is more pronounced.
We have engaged 20 Gaja Bandhus, one each from the affected villages.
The Vana Suraksha Samitis (VSS) and Eco-Development Committees (EDCs) operating in these areas had the final say in the engagement of local people in this scheme,’ said Athgarh Divisional Forest Officer, Sasmita Lenka.
Those engaged has no history of wildlife offences, she said.
The Gaja Bandhus have been assigned the responsibility of keeping track of straying elephants and informing the locals of the herd’s movement and location.
To help them in effective performance, they have been provided smart phone sets by the state government.
The friends of elephants will sensitize people not to provoke or tease the straying pachyderms as the animals then turn violent and aggressive and attack humans and damage houses.
As aromatic smell of locally-made brew attracts elephants, the Gajabandhus will sensitize the locals from carrying out such unlawful activities that are detrimental for the local people’s life and property, added the official.