India is where you will find 60 percent of the world’s Asian elephants, which would be roughly 26,000 to 28000 of these gentle and beautiful beasts. Of those elephants about 20 percent live in Assam. In the state of Assam the human population is growing 20 percent a year and has been at this gradual incline for roughly two decades. It seemed a conflict between the growing human population and existing elephant population was inevitable.
In the small village Ram Terang that is located in the northeast state of Assam, people have a simple life. They are far away from school and other villages but had enough rice paddies and other crops to provide a peaceful life.
Only three years after the village was established there was a new resident; a large male elephant.
Although startling at first they grew used to the animal and had no issue hurling stones to get him out of the way, when needed. That was until the night when the elephant ripped the roof off one of the huts and ripped open the abdomen of the women who lived there while her baby screamed inside the hut all through the night. The husband and father, Khoi, remembers the night.
“It’s a night I cannot forget, The baby cried all night while the elephant slept right outside the house it had destroyed. In the morning villagers sneaked in and managed to safely get [the child] out. The mother was buried there.”
From there things only got worse. Many more elephants came into town, reeking havoc and destroying more homes and crops. No one could feed themselves and people were afraid to go to work or school.
The village was built in a hurry and they did not realize until it was too late that it was built in a wildlife corridor that elephants have been using for centuries to travel between habitats. That is why they came in in such numbers and with such force. But conflicts with elephants and human is not a new thing in India; in Assam only elephants have killed 733 humans while humans have killed 225 elephants, all between the years 2001 and 2014.
The Villagers when eventually moved thanks to different wildlife organizations. They were put into New Ram Terang where the villagers now have redbrick houses and tin roofs, a new care center for mothers and children, and a primary school. The village is also closer to the older children’s existing schools. And just in case the elephants return, a solar energy powered fence has been installed.
Although it seemed this was the best the country could have done for both parties, people have criticized and said that the elephant’s lives were considered above the villagers. People from the village, both the original and the new one are struggling to stay alive. While the move could have affected some of the people the fact is many were already uneducated and unskilled, and elephants or not they would have a hard time with average pay being $2.70 a day. But the programs keep giving these people help; by a year from now families will be given 1.6 acres of land to farm plus two fisheries for the village.
While it is unfortunate the humans and elephants cannot live in peace it seems this may be the best option. It would be unfair to relocate the elephants and of course kill them, and these people end up getting more than they have before. Although it is unfortunate for this who already lost their lives it seems they are all doing they can to move forward and steps are being taken so humans and elephants do not have to fight over territory in the future.