The Irrawaddy

Locals Seek Police Assistance to Deter Rampaging Elephant

The group tasked with driving away wild elephants from human settlements in Ngapudaw Township.

PATHEIN — A wild elephant has been on a rampage through several villages in the west of Pathein Township in Irrawaddy Region as of Tuesday, and locals are afraid.

“That elephant is really wild and not afraid of humans. It stamped a pig to death in Kyun Kalay village and also destroyed a house in Ywathit village. We locals are scared that it could hurt us,” U Hla Htay, the administrator of Kyaukphya village tract, told The Irrawaddy.

Forestry police and personnel of the Pathein Township Forestry Department arrived in the village tract on Friday after locals sought help. The forestry department brought four tamed elephants to help drive it back to the forest.

Wild elephants visit farms for food usually from the paddy harvest in November to around May before the rainy season starts, according to locals.

“As people cut down trees excessively, it causes deforestation, and elephants are devoid of foods. They are losing their habitats. So, they come to human settlements to eat paddy, banana and other crops grown by the people, resulting in human-elephant conflict,” said Sai Zaw Oo, a supervisor of the Myanmar Elephant Lovers Association, a local community-based organization based in Ngapudaw Township.

“At the same time, this has given elephant poachers the opportunity to hunt wild elephants that come and search for food,” he added.

Last year, a herd of wild elephants came and ate crops grown by locals around Ngwe Saung Beach in the west of Pathein Township, and four local villagers were killed in resultant human-elephant conflicts, according to the Ngwe Saung Beach police station.

In June this year, non-governmental organizations, forestry police and Myanma Timber Enterprise formed a team tasked with scaring away elephants from human settlements and preventing them from being hunted by poachers. The team carries out regular patrols across the forests with tamed elephants.

According to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Conservation, 18 wild elephants were poached in Myanmar in 2016 whereas about 30 elephants have been hunted as of Aug. 31 this year.

The elephant population of the country is now estimated to be between 1,400 and 2,000—a significant decrease from about 10,000 in the 1940s, according to the Forestry Department.