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End tusker menace, win votes
Published on 12 Mar. 2009 12:58 AM IST
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This is one jumbo offer for vote-seekers. For the residents of 10 villages and five tea gardens in Jorhat Lok Sabha constituency - 300km from Guwahati - protection from marauding pachyderms is the assurance they want from candidates, never mind the political affiliations. Inhabitants of gardens like Moormooria, Dukhlongia, Hooloonguri, Kathalguri and villages of Govindpur, Madhurpur, Bhogpur, Pukhuria and Fesuwal - located in the periphery of Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary - are the worst affected by elephants straying out of the sanctuary. According to forest department records, elephant attacks have claimed over 60 lives in the area in the last 20 years, not to mention the damage to property and crops. The latest attack was barely a month ago at the main labour line of Moormooria, when about 30 houses were damaged by a marauding herd. Anil Tanti, a villager from Moormooria whose house was badly damaged last month, said the region’s 500 families (having around 3,000 voters) would demand immediate measures from candidates to solve the problem. “First, we have to be alive. Then only can we think of other things in life,” he said. Neighbour Meghnath Rajak echoed him: “Every night is a night of anxiety and fear as the threat from the animal looms large.” Tanu Gourh, another resident, said despite repeated pleas to the authorities and ruling party leaders of the area, the situation was turning from bad to worse. “MPs and MLAs only visit during election time and so we have decided to stick to our one and only demand,” he said. Officials say the rising elephant population in the sanctuary, which now stands at 28, is the main problem. Spread over 20 sq km, the sanctuary can house only one elephant under ideal conditions: a single pachyderm needs 18 sq km for its habitat, also known as “carrying capacity”.

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