Maharashtra: Forest dept tests mechanised scarecrows to keep herds of elephants away from farms

Amid increasing cases of elephant herds destroying crops and property in southern districts of Maharashtra, the state’s forest department has decided to resort to ‘huge horns’ or robotic scarecrows, which scare the slithering animals away with a combination of light and sound.

A forest ministry official said it was a non-intrusive measure, unlike a solar-powered fence around farmland. To deter elephants from entering settlements, the Corbett Corporation, along with the state forest department, installed animal intrusion detection and repellent systems in May this year.

The system installed at the boundaries of the fields will trigger an alarm when a wild animal passes within its radius. It will alert the rapid response team and the villagers or the owner.

A pilot project has already started in a village in Dudamarg Ambuli district of Sindhudurg district.

Kedar Gore, director of the Corbett Foundation, said: “It’s a pilot project and we’re studying its success rate. Elephants are smart animals and they adapt to these actions faster than other animals. There are other methods, such as solar fencing and honey cultivation, but they haven’t been successful. This is a new method we’re trying to stop Or scaring elephants out of the fields and destroying farms.”

To prevent human-wildlife conflict, the state’s forest department has also begun formulating a long-term mitigation plan. The movement of elephants between the Tilari Conservation Reserve, which borders the Karnataka-Goa border and in the neighboring districts of Kolhapur, increases between February and July each year. Herds of wild elephants make a temporary migration through the Sawantwadi-Dodamarg wildlife corridor, passing large areas of agricultural and horticultural farms on the way.

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