As we have reported previously on our website, elephants have increasingly been wandering out of the jungle onto roads and villages as the forest shrinks around them. Since October, the number of human-elephant encounters has risen dramatically and it has now become an almost daily responsibility for our forest patrol teams to follow-up on reports of elephant sightings and protect both the elephants and villagers in the area.
On January 6, 2012, the station supervisor at the Stung Proat Station received a phone call from a hunter from Chi Phat that a large male elephant was on the sugar cane plantation road and that he had been forced to seek refuge high in a tree. The patrollers arrived on the scene and helped the man down and sent him on his way while keeping the elephant, who was actually very calm and docile, at bay.
For the next 11 days, it was necessary for the rangers to do crowd control on the road as the elephant continued to appear there each afternoon and stay until sunrise the next morning. For the first 9 days, the situation was very tense as workers driving past in trucks would throw things or shout at the elephant which would irritate him and cause him charge after the trucks. Nothing seemed to scare him off, not fire or gun shots, and the elephant remained on the road.
By the 10th day, when the elephant appeared again, he seemed exhausted and was missing a piece of his left tusk. He became even more aggressive with passing workers. When several workers came directly at him with tractors, it appeared the situation had become untenable. In response, CEO Suwanna Gauntlett was called in to reach out the general manager of the sugar plantation and ask for urgent intervention with his workers. After negotiations with the GM, the workers calmed down but did not entirely stop provoking the elephant.
When the patrol team returned to the road again on Day 12, the elephant did not return and he has not returned since. Footprints have been spotted further into the forest and at this point it is assumed that he has found another, more densely forested spot to spend his days. However, we continue to investigate further.
Elephants have not been seen in the open for the last 10 years, despite confirmations through footprints and dung that a population of around 200 individuals exists in the forest. While poaching has been under control since 2002 due to the direct action of Wildlife Alliance, deforestation continues to be a challenge to the lives of these elephants. Today, the southern tip of the elephant corridor is being aggressively cleared, pushing elephants out of the forest and causing this increase in elephant sightings.
We have had to adapt quickly to insure the safety of the elephants. Without constant intervention by our forest rangers, it’s hard to say what will happen during these human-elephant encounters. And without your help, we can’t guarantee that our rangers will always be available to intercede during these tense situations. Our patrol teams are already stretched thin as they combat wildlife poaching and illegal logging throughout the forest area. The forest in the Southern Cardamoms exists solely because of the protection provided by Wildlife Alliance and we are able to do that only with your support.