A simple hand-held catapult has become the weapon of choice for the locals of Bahundangi who have been victims of dangerous attacks by wild elephants entering the settlement from across the border since decades.
The locals had tried various methods including the use of barbed wire fences, electric fencing and even bee farming to ward off the menacing tuskers, but not only were they ineffective but aggravated the tuskers even more. However, the catapult has so far proven way more effective in warding off the tuskers, locals said.
“The elephants panic and run away when hit by the bean-shooter and the best part is that we can shoot at them from a comfortable distance,” said local Prasad Singh Pandey of Bahundangi-2. As the tuskers from Sukuna and Tukre forest areas in West Bengal, India start moving towards the settlement in the evening after crossing the Mechi river, group of locals armed with the catapults reach the banks before sundown.
And when the tuskers start crossing into Nepali territory, the locals start firing catapults at the wild elephants accompanied with loud noises.
“The elephants rarely attack when they are in a herd. So when one elephant panics and turns away following a sustained attack, the whole herd follows,” said local Tek Bahadur Ale while sharing his experience.
Stating that huge investments by the government and NGOs to ward off the wild elephants had been laid to waste, locals claimed that the hand-held catapults were enough to scare the tuskers away.
Although the International Union for Conservation of Nature has banned any activity that directly or indirectly harms the wild elephants, locals do not care about international laws.
“We cannot just watch our hard work and means of sustenance being destroyed just to uphold international laws,” Pandey reiterated, adding that the locals, however, are aware about the importance of the elephants and do not engage in any kind of activities that could lead to the death of the wild elephants.
“The wild elephants that rest in the forest during the day, cross into the settlement, located just about a kilometer away from the forests across the border, in search of food in the evening,” said chairperson of the Nature Conservation Society Arjun Karki. During the
harvest season from mid-Oct to mid-Nov, the locals take turns to guard their harvest from the waves of attacks by wild elephants. Furthermore, as there are dozens of ways through which the tuskers enter the settlement, the locals have a hard time safeguarding their harvests.
“If the elephants manage to enter the settlement during the period, they destroy all the harvest,” said local Dil Bahadur Pradhan.
Meanwhile, recent studies have suggested that Bahundangi and the surrounding areas have acted as natural biological corridors for the movement of the elephants since ages.
The elephants have been found travelling from as far as Assam via West Bengal, India to Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve in Nepal.