Mitigating Man-Elephant Confrontation
in the Bannerghatta National Park Area
Institute for Natural Resources Conservation, Education, Research and Training No.
10, Sirur Park, B Street, Seshadripuram, Bangalore - 560 020.
Ph. : 3364142, 3364682 E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Report by INCERT Investigation team
S. Sridhar Dr. G. Venkatesh Paresh U. Karmarkar
V. Sudheendra S. Shreyas K.B. Prakash
Incert has been studying the man-elephant confrontation in and the Bannerghatta national Park
area since the mid-nineties. Many press releases were issued from time to time. Some of the press releases are reproduced
here. The dates/months of the respective press releases are alos given for your reference.
About Asian Elephants
The Elephant has been an integral part of our history, mythology, religion and culture. Since
times immemorial, eloquent references are made in a number of ancient literatures of the subcontinent. Elephants have been
embellished in rock carvings of Pallavas and Hoysalas. The imperial elephant stables of Emperor Akbar are believed to have
housed 32,000 pachyderms. Their number during his son Jahangirs realm is said to have gone up to as much as 1,30,000!
The Asian elephants are presently spread over 13 countries. In terms of numbers - the existing
population is between 34,000 to 54,000 and is declining alarmingly. The entire Asian elephant population is less than 10%
of its African counterpart.
Reasons for decline include fragmentation and loss of habitats, isolation of groups, rampant
poaching for ivory, man-elephant conflict and consequent death by electrocution or shooting by farmers.
Ratio of male to female elephant has reached an alarming 1:100 in some areas. Tuskers in their
prime age are becoming fewer and fewer, since they are selectively targeted by the poachers. This is contributing to the deterioration
in the quality of gene pool. Tamed elephants numbering around 2,500 rarely breed in captivity; a colossal waste of gene pool
Deeply disturbed at the continuing and alarming decline of elephants in India in general and
the escalating man-elephant confrontation at the Bannerghatta National Park area in particular, INCERT has taken up field
studies to identify the problems facing the elephants at the Bannerghatta National Park area and find suitable solutions.
Some facts about Bannerghatta National Park
Notified as a National Park vide Notification no AFD 61 FWL 74 dated 6/9/74.
104. 27 Sq. Kms.
Mean Annual Rainfall
1) Southern Tropical Dry Deciduous Forest (5A) 8,427 ha
2) Southern Thorn Forests (6A/C1) 1,500 ha
3) South Indian Moist Deciduous Forests (3B) 500 ha
Total :- 104.27 Sq.Kms or 10,427 ha
There are 35 man-made tanks. (20 are perennial).
There are six villages inside the park area with a population of about 2,200.
There are 236 villages in the surrounding areas with a total population of 47,200
Illegal grazing by approximately 7,500 heads of cattle, goat and sheep from the adjacent
villages is a permanent feature. This is in violation of the Wild Life ( Preservation) Act of 1972.
Quarrying and Mining Activities :
There are more than 40 illegal quarries in and around the BNP,
in violation of the Environment (Protection) Act of 1986. Any mining or quarrying activity within 25 km of the boundary of
a National Park is banned under this act.
Elephant Census :
There were 56 elephants according to a census conducted by the forest dept. in
1993. Method used for the census was Stratified sample counts of unequal sized units.
Personnel : The BNP has one ACF, five RFOs, four Foresters, One Asst. Vet. Surgeon,
One Second Div. Asst., ten Guards, four watchers, four drivers, two Kavadis, 27 consolidated salary workers and 25 watchmen
and two peons.
(Note: 23 consolidated salary workers have been relieved of their duties four months ago due
to lack of funds (Order No. EST (1) CR : D:N:52:97-98 dated 14.2.2000).
Two fixed wireless sets, eleven walkie-talkie, four guns, one jeep and seven other vehicles
(for safari) (most of the equipment are out of order and not in use at present).
Present Elephant Conservation Problems:-
1) BNP is like a vertically expanded amoeba with too many arms and sharply arching boundaries
2) Over 15 natural streams criss-cross the BNP borders at many places.
3) Most of the bordering areas have been encroached by farmers and boundary disputes are not
easy to settle due to some survey numbers having lands which are more than 500 acres in extent; partly owned by the Govt and
partly owned by farmers and quarry owners. The boundaries are loosely described and manipulated in the existing documents.
4) Naturally growing bamboos are the staple food for the elephants. They have been extensively
cut and removed in recent years. The forest vegetation now comprises lantana, parthenium, prosopis, ziziphus sp and other
vegetation not preferred by the elephants.
5) Over 7,500 heads of cattle, goat and sheep are daily brought by the villages of the 236 surrounding
villages. They directly compete with the elephants for food.
6) The farmers grow crops such as paddy, ragi, sugarcane, coconut, papaya and horse-gram which
attract the attention of the elephants.
7) Forest fires are rampant during summer and the present staff strength is inadequate to deal
with this problem. A forest fire was fanning the areas around the Doddaragalli betta during March-April 2000.
8) More than 40 quarries are in operation in and around the BNP. The blasting activities are
detrimental to the welfare of the elephants.
9) Illicit country made liquors are being manufactured in many places inside the National Park.
There are a few instances of wild elephants drinking this killer brew and getting intoxicated. The death of an young elephant
last year, is attributed to this.
Plans of the Forest Department :
1) Digging elephant proof trenches:- The department has dug elephant proof trenches along
the borders of the BNP. In most cases the trenches have been filled up by the villagers for taking the cattle, goats and sheep
regularly into the BNP for grazing. The elephants are using the same filled up areas for coming out of the forests to feed
on the crops of the surrounding agricultural fields.
2) Fixing used railway tracks as a strong barricade: The Department is also planning
to fix used railway tracks all along the boundaries of the BNP to effectively control the elephants from coming out of the
forest. This is also not feasible. In the first place boundary disputes are yet to be settled. Fixing the railing across the
15 or so natural streams is not an easy task. The BNP is like an expanded amoeba with too many arms and sharply arching boundaries
(see map). Many roads are being utilised by the villagers of the six villages which are inside the forest and the quarry operators
are also using these roads to bring in their lorries. In the absence of effective vigilance the railings will be prone to
plunder by anti social elements.
Supreme Court Directions given a quietus?
The Supreme Court had ordered that sufficient budgetary provisions be made for preservation
of biodiversity and protection of wildlife. They had also ordered that the forest guards in the Sanctuaries and National Parks
are provided modern arms/communication facilities viz wireless sets and other necessary equipment in that regard. Necessary
steps for that purpose ought to have been taken within six months.
On the contrary and in violation of the Supreme Courts directive, the Forest department has
relieved 23 employees of the Bannerghatta National Park, last month due to lack of funds. Inspite of the clear direction of
the Apex Court in August 1997, to provide modern arms/communication facilities viz wireless sets and other necessary equipment
to the forest guards, no effort has been made to provide the essential gadgets even after a lapse of two and half years.
The Supreme Court, in December 1996 had directed cessation of all non-forest activities in all
the forests. But inspite of public outcry and media debate, several illegal quarries are operating in and around the Bannerghatta
National Park. No sincere effort has been made by the authorities to curb these illegal activities even after a lapse of three
and half years from the date of the Supreme Court Order.
The Supreme Court had directed the State Govt. not to remove any trees, grasses, etc. However
large scale removal of bamboo clumps from BNP has resulted in the ecological deprivation of the staple food for the wild elephants
The above directions of the Supreme Court are very clear and the State Govt ought to have implemented
the orders of the Apex court in right earnest in letter and spirit.
However, there is no evidence of tangible or discernible steps taken by the State Govt to implement
the Supreme Court orders till date.
We have time and again represented to the forest authorities about these issues and appealed
to them to take a comprehensive and pragmatic field-oriented measures to tackle the situation with a very firm hand. But unfortunately
the authorities continue to be casual, indifferent and uninterested in adopting suitable and effective remedies.
Already extinct in five states in India
If no solution is found quickly enough there may not be any need to look for solutions, since
the present causative factors are themselves enough to annihilate the last herd of pachyderms from the Bannerghatta National
Park in the near future. It is no alarmist view but a sober and real assessment of the situation which calls for dramatic
measures to preserve this species. In less than hundred years elephants have become extinct in Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh,
Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh on account of similar causative factors remaining un-mitigated.
Dr. Martin Luther King had once said "The ultimate measure of persons is not where they stand at times of
comfort and convenience, but where they stand at times of challenge and controversy." Here is a good opportunity to exhibit
our resolute commitment to save the wild elephants of Bannerghatta amidst stiff challenges and controversies.
Wild animals Being Purged
from the Bannerghatta National Park
INCERT Investigative Report Dated 29th September 2001
By V. Sudhiendra and S. Sridhar
The forest department has done it again! Amid squeals of protests from environmentalists and
the villagers alike, the department has gone ahead with the construction spree. Recently it built a large enclosure to house
the confiscated circus lions and tigers. Presently they have almost completed a Bear enclosure, a Tiger enclosure and tourist
cottages inside the Bannerghatta National Park. All the above constructions have been put up in clear
violation of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, Forest (Conservation) Act and directions of the Supreme Court issued recently.
During September 2000 INCERT had furnished photographic evidence of bulldozing of fifty acres
of prime wild elephant habitat inside the Bannerghatta National Park, to facilitate a new bear enclosure. INCERT had launched
a webiste with 50 photographs <www.geocities.com/incertenvironment/incert.html> depicting the mindless damage to the
forest in the Kenchebayalu area of Ragalli beat inside the Bannerghatta National Park.
Violation of the Wildlife (Protection) Act
After the newspaper reports, the department ceased the activities for a few months, but started
the bulldozing and construction activities afresh in recent months. The activities included removal of trees and shrubs using
bulldozers and JCB, digging trenches by dynamiting, putting up stone slab barricades around the bear enclosure, construction
of 1.4 km long road from the Hakkipikki colony by removing the tree cover etc., and were taken up in full swing. The constructions
are nearing completion at present. All these activities are prohibited under the following sections
of the Wildlife (Protection) Act.
Section 35 (6) reads as follows:- "No person shall destroy, exploit or remove any wildlife from a National
Perk or destroy or damage the habitat of any wild animal or deprive any wild animal of its habitat within such National Park
except under and in accordance with a permit granted by the Chief Wildlife Warden and no such permit shall be granted unless
the State Government, being satisfied that such destruction, exploitation or removal of wildlife from the National Park is
necessary for the improvement and better management of wildlife therein, authorizes issue of such permit.
Bulldozing and removal of trees and construction of cages inside the National Park can under no stretch of
imagination be termed as for improvement and better management of wildlife therein, these activities can certainly be termed as contravention of the Wildlife (Protection) Act.
The elephant herds especially the herds with young calves, will certainly panic and tend to
stray to neighboring forests and agricultural fields, on account of the continuous roaring of around 150 lions and tigers,
to be housed in the cages presently being constructed in the bulldozed area.
The enclosures are meant for housing bears confiscated from road side performers from all over
India and circus tigers being procured from Europe. The animals thus brought from elsewhere cannot be termed as "Wildlife
therein". Moreover they will be held under captive conditions which in itself is violative of Section 9 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, which specifically mentions that "No person shall hunt [Sec. 1 (16) capture, kill, poison,
snare, trap or attempt to do so]".
Also the Wildlife (Protection) Act has defined [Sec 1 (5)] that captive animals include animals
captured or bred in captivity. Bears and tigers being kept in enclosures are captive animals as defined under the Act and
are not "Wildlife therein". The wildlife therein comprise free roaming wild elephants, jackals, leopards etc., all
of which were deprived of their natural habitat by removal of trees and construction activities, which are violative of the
Wildlife (Protection) Act as explained above.
In addition, Section 32 of Wildlife (Protection) Act has banned use of injurious substances
: No person shall use, in a National Park or a sanctuary, chemicals, explosives or any other substances which may cause
injury or endanger any wildlife in the National park or Sanctuary. But explosives and dynamites were used freely and copiously,
to blast rocks during trench digging operations inside the National Park.(see Photos). This is also a clear violation of the
Wildlife (Protection) Act.
Violation of the Forest (Conservation) Act.
Sec 2 (ii), (iii) and (iv) have clearly banned all non forest activities and clearing of trees
which have grown naturally in any forest, without the prior approval of the Central Government.
Violation of the directions of the Supreme Court
The Supreme Court has also imposed an absolute embargo on the removal of even dead and wind-fallen
trees etc. from any National Park or Sanctuary in its order dated 14th Feb 2000.
The Solicitor General of India Shri Harish N Salve had written to the Addl IGF (Wildlife) Ministry
of Environment and Forest on 18th July 2000 as follows:-
"...Section 29 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act prohibits absolutely
the grant of permission "by the State Government or the Chief wildlife Warden, for any activity which damages the habitat
of any wild animal within such sanctuary unless such activity is necessary for the better management of the wildlife itself.
A similar prohibition in relation to national park is provided under section 35(6)..."
".. In any event the Supreme Court has also imposed an absolute embargo on the removal of even dead and wind-fallen
trees etc. from any National park or Sanctuary in its order dated 14th Feb 2000."
"... I would suggest that whenever a permission is sought, you may ask the applicant to first
seek clearance of the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court directs the grant of any such permission even clears the grant of
any such permission then the matter can be considered. This may be the course of prudence to be adopted in this matter", the
Solicitor General had observed in his letter.
But to everyones anguish no such course was taken before bulldozing the trees and constructing
the buildings inside the Bannerghatta National Park The Forest Department has shown chronic reluctance
to adhere to the legal framework and the Supreme Court directions.
They have purged the Bannerghatta National park of its wild animals, which is evidenced by the
death of a dozen elephants between Jan-and May 2001, the death of atleast two villagers due to trampling by the wild elephants
and the increasing instances of crop raiding by the elephants, which were forced to come out of the Bannerghatta National
Man-elephant conflict escalation Imminent?
At present INCERT investigation team is following the movements of two tuskers and two female
elephants which are currently residing close to the bulldozed area and shivering in their death throes, as the electrified
fences around the agricultural fields are ready to take a toll of these pachyderms. Environmentalists have every reason to
believe that such non forest activities have radically diminished the native wildlife in the Bannerghatta National Park area.
Tender Norms Flouted?
It is reliably learnt that around Rs 2 crores were spent by the department towards bulldozing
and construction of the enclosures. The funds were procured from various funding agencies from India and abroad. Discreet
enquires revealed that tenders were not called for this project but entrusted to a private contractor by flouting all tender
We are pleased to inform you that INCERT had created the following websites,
and other information on the bulldozing activities which took place in the Bannerghatta National Park, during September 2000,
but the authorities had ceased the operations after pressure from environmentalists, but began the construction activites
in August 2001.
Please visit these websites created during September 2000: