Attacks by a pack of Gava/Indian Bison used to damage corn and wheat crops at five acres of land of Santosh Patil farm at Mandur village in Maharashtra's Sangli district. Patil's farm adjoins Chandoli National Park. Santosh used to loss 20-30% of the crops due to Bison attacks.
Patil said, "We three brothers would put mannequins, put lights on or sometimes stay awake during nights to protect crops before harvest season in order to save crops from Bison. It is a challenging task and wild Bison are strong and can attack back. Forest officials suggested buying solar flashlights devices that are 5-6 ft high and put flashes in the nights like torches."
He added, "We bought six devices and installed in January 2020 at 100 meters distance near the fencing. In the last six months till June, no bison has entered the farm. We could see bisons passing from near fences during nights but don't entre due to flashlights in various directions. The flashlights are currently not getting properly charged due to rainfall for the last two months but they are functional as soon as the sun shines."
According to the Environment Ministry, 2398 people died due to human-elephant conflict from 2014 to March 31, 2019, while 224 people died in the tiger-human conflict. Average one person is killed in human-animal conflict every day in India. And 373 elephants died due to unnatural causes like electrocution, poisoning and poaching. As per experts, habitat disturbance, urbanisation are major reasons for animal-human conflicts.
The solar flashlights devices called Parabraksh are solar-powered autonomous flashing system innovated and manufactured by a group of engineers from Bangalore. The group led by Ayan S R, has started a social entrepreneurship start-up called Katidhan under which, the devices are produced.
Ayan S R, a 30-year-old mechanical engineer, through a friend, came to know that snow leopard damages 20-30% crops of farmers in Ladakh. Ayan then did research, took the help of scientists at National Institute of Advanced Studies and Indian Institute of Sciences, Bangalore to understand whether sound, lights or particular smell can keep animal away.
Ayan said, "We developed a device after two months of research and tested it in Ladakh for two months in 2017. Farmers told us that they have seen reduced attacks of snow leopards. We then developed a solar-powered autonomous flashing system that blinks in various patterns during nights and gets charged during the day. The device has a USB plug for charging in case of rainfall. Devices have been available in the market since 2018."
They have sold over 200 devices in Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, Assam, Odisha, Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir and Karnataka.
Govind Langote, Range Forest Officer, Chandoli National Park, Sangli, agreed that devices have been resourceful. He said, "Six devices are installed at Mandur near Chandoli, and three are installed at a village near Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary. The department works with villagers around the park and we are planning to buy more to install at places where people get into parks for collecting flora."
Jigmit Dadul, Snow Leopard Conservatory India Trust, Ladakh, said, "Snow leopard and wolf did not come close to livestock's pens due to seven devices we have installed. Normally we do see pugmark near the pens but after installation of devices, we did not see pugmarks."
Biswa Das along with 400 farmers in Joda Block of Keonjhar district of Odisha have installed the devices to save their crops from elephant attacks. Biswa said, "All the farmers here cultivate vegetables in their small belts of half or one acre. Elephants attack were common and I would end up losing Rs 5000-6000, after damages of crops. Since the installation of devices, I am being able to get full cost for crops."
India has 101 National Parks and 553 wildlife sanctuaries spread on 1.60 lakh sq km comprising 4.6% of total India's land, as per Wildlife Institute of India. Over 1.73 villages are in and around forests and over 350 million depend on the forest as per Ministry of Environment and Forest, India. They have to be around, or in the forest for collecting wildflowers, firewood, medicines, grazing livestock, agriculture and are at risk of attack by wild animals.
The brutal death of an elephant in Kerala
The brutal death of 10-year-old pregnant elephant on May 27 after she fell prey to a trap set up to catch wild animals underlines the issue of human-animal conflict. She ate pineapple stuffed with firecrackers kept for wild animals by local farmers in Palakkad district of Kerala. The cracker exploded after the elephant ate it, injuring her mouth. She wasn't able to drink water or eat food and later died.
K M Joy, farmers leader from Kerala, tells, "Farmers from Malappuram, Palakkad and Waynad that are near forests suffer 20-25% losses every year due to attacks of elephants, wild boars and monkeys. Farmers have to find ways to save the crops, human lives and livestock."
Ayan says nobody has done research or thought to solve these attacks by animals in farms or forests using advanced technology. He said, "Neither farmers nor animals are at fault. This loss of lives can be avoided by advanced technology. The loss of the lives of humans and animals should be avoided. Now we are working on technology using Artificial intelligence to help farmers to understand when particular animals would attack and farmers would be ready to tackle this. Besides our devices can not keep away certain animals away and we are doing research on this."
Experts say this is one of the ways to reduce losses of property, crops, livestock, human and wildlife. Technology should be used to deal with the increasing number of human-wildlife conflicts."