Elephants have been turned into bulldozers in the battle against encroachers in northeastern India.
An increase in incidents of poaching have been a wake-up call for the government to combat encroachment in national parks in Assam. And for over a year now, elephants have been used for demolition duties to curb the human-wildlife standoffs that are putting the animals’ lives in danger. The pachyderms are a popular choice because they are able to reach remote sites more easily than large excavators can.
In Kaziranga National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site that houses two-thirds of the world’s great one-horned rhinoceros population, settlements housing 300 families were cleared using elephants in September 2016. An August 2017 eviction drive in another Assamese reserve, Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary, used elephants to dismantle 283 houses and clear about 200 hectares of forestland.
Both drives came to a halt due to violent protests by disgruntled residents who would be rendered homeless. Two civilians were killed in police firing, and 17 people, including 15 policemen, were injured during the Kaziranga eviction drive. In Amchang, protestors formed human chains and even pelted stones at the evictors, forcing the Assam government to ”temporarily suspend” the eviction activity.
On Nov. 27, authorities went in to destroy Amchang’s settlements again. This time, the authorities tore down 408 homes across a 150 hectare area in three locations within the sanctuary, displacing over 700 families. And this month’s Amchang eviction was no different, with elephants back on duty.