Conventional methods such as firecrackers and chili bombs have harmed the animals in the past
Forest officials in Odisha’s Keonjhar district have been playing back audio clips of tiger growls for six months now to keep elephants from raiding crops and entering villages.
Elephants usually do not venture into areas where tigers reside. “We distributed hand-microphones with recordings of tiger growls to the forest personnel,” said Swayam Mallick, divisional forest officer (DFO), Keonjhar forest division.
“In a recent incident, after we played the recorded tiger growls, many elephants started to retreat quickly and silently,” he added.
Villagers are living in constant fear of elephants rampaging through their fields, with vegetables, sugar canes and several other crops ready for harvest. In 2019-20, Odisha recorded 115 human casualties and 132 injuries due to man-elephant conflict in a year.
For decades, firecrackers were used to drive away herds headed towards the villages. But in the past, elephants were injured in cracker accidents.
Last year, a 15-year-old pregnant elephant died after accidentally eating a cracker-filled fruit, an incident that triggered outrage in the country.
Chilies and chili bombs were also used to deter elephants till Uttarakhand high court banned the practice in 2019. “Now the recorded tiger growls is the only way to check the human-elephant conflict in the state,” the forest officer added.
Last year, the method was used successfully in Similipal National Park in the state, he said.
“Mother elephants with calves and lone elephants may retreat quickly after hearing the roars of the tigers,” said L A K Singh, a wildlife researcher who used to work with the Odisha forest department.
The elephant population in the state has come down to 1,976 in 2017 from 2,044 in 1979.
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