KOLKATA: It might seem unbelievable, but the reality is that villagers belonging to the Dooars region in north Bengal, especially in the Buxar and Chilapata zones, are heavily suffering due to constant invasions by wild elephants. After several instances of elephants creating havoc, there have been reports of villagers killing a few of the pachyderms.
The forests in the Dooars region in north Bengal are known for the natural growth of a wild fruit locally called ‘chalta’, which has great demand in the urban market as a raw material for spicy pickles. Incidentally, ‘chalta’ is also the prime and the most favourite food of the wild elephants residing in the region.
Of late, there has been indiscriminate and illegal collection of this fruit from the Dooars forests for the purpose of supplying raw materials to pickle manufacturers, which has lead to a massive shortfall of the fruit in the area. According to Buxar Project regional director, LG Lepcha, this has lead to scarcity of the prime and favourite food for the elephants in the forests and hence they frequently invade nearby localities in search of food.
Lepcha added that “chalta” is also consumed by the monkeys and deer in the region and hence a shortage of this naturally grown fruit might ultimately result in the total dismantling of the food-chain system of the wildlife in the region.
Lepcha further pointed out that the existing law is quite strict as regards to collection of “Chalta”. He said that the villagers are allowed to collect this fruit in small quantity only from the zones adjacent to the forest for their own consumption. The collection is totally prohibited from core forest areas. Incidentally, commercial selling of the fruit is also not allowed.