Bhubaneswar, September 21 (LocalWire): The Odisha government has decided to engage around 50 Gaja Bandhus (friends of elephants) from October to manage the elephant corridors and reduce human-elephant conflict in the state.
The Gaja Bandhus will be hired under the Management of Elephant Corridors initiative and paid an honorarium of Rs 9,000.
“The engagement of Gajabandhus will be done in a phased manner in elephant depredation forest divisions of the state. As Athgarh and Dhenkanal forest divisions are currently worst hit by elephant depredation, the scheme will be launched in these two forest divisions from 1 October,” state forest department officials stated.
The department plans to roll out the initiative in Keonjhar, Angul and Sundargarh forest divisions later.
The department has also identified fifty villages, where elephant menace is more pronounced, for hiring Gaja Bandhus and at least one Gaja Bandhu each will engaged from forest-side villages.
The Vana Suraksha Samitis (VSS) and Eco-Development Committees (EDCs) operating in these areas will have the final say in the engagement of local people in this scheme, sources said, adding that both the organisations have been asked to ensure that those selected have no history of wildlife offences.
The Gaja Bandhus will be assigned the responsibility of keeping track of straying elephants and informing the people of herd’s movement and location.
They will also be provided with smartphones to help them effectively track and disseminate information.
They will also be engaged in creating awareness among people not to provoke or tease the straying elephants as it often turns them violent and aggressive making them attack humans and houses.
As the aromatic smell of locally made brew attracts elephants to sneak into villages, the Gaja Bandhus will also sensitise the locals not to carry out such unlawful activities detrimental to local people’s life and property, the officials stated.