May 2013. Marking a significant milestone in efforts to secure a crucial elephant corridor in northeast India, residents of an entire village have literally put down in stone their willingness to relocate voluntarily outside the corridor to provide a clear passage for elephants.
Modern traditional houses
The foundation stone for a model ethnic village was laid down, marking the site of relocation of the Ram Terang villagers from the Kalapahar Doigurung Elephant Corridor. The village will have traditional style houses reflecting the culture of the area, but it will also be equipped with modern facilities and necessities such as electricity, health care and education.
Unveiling the foundation stone in the relocated area
Laying the foundation stone, Rechno Haising Ronghang, the 40th King of Karbi Anglong said, "This is a new step that will benefit wildlife as well as people. There should be no barrier when it comes to wildlife conservation. We need to think of it as something that is necessary for human survival too." He congratulated the team for the initiative that will benefit the people of the corridor areas.
People of the village celebrating their impending move
The Kalapahar-Doigurung Elephant Corridor connects Kalapahar with Doigurung-Nambor Wildlife Sanctuary and Kaziranga National Park. For 30 years the village of Ram Terang, named after the head of the village, has been situated in the middle of the corridor. As a result, human-elephant conflicts have been common and with regular loss of property and life for both the elephants and the humans.
"There are about 1800 elephants in the Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong landscape making it the habitat of about 8% of India's elephants. Securing this corridor is not just about the right of passage for these elephants but also to relieve local people of losses caused due to conflicts", said Dr Bhaskar Choudhury, Regional Head (Assam).
The process of course, reaching up to this milestone was not an easy one. It began about three years ago.
"The villagers were very hesitant at first when we approached them with the idea of relocation, and naturally so, as it involved their complete overhaul of their livelihoods. However, eventually they understood the need and benefits of the efforts for animals as well as themselves. Many individuals and agencies played a very crucial role in achieving this, and we are extremely grateful to all of them," said Dilip Deori, Assistant Manager, WTI, while expressing his appreciation for the support and cooperation being shown by the local community and organisations.
The project was supported by Elephant Family, IUCN - Netherlands and Japan Tiger and Elephant Fund, and implemented by Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), to assist the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council and Assam Forest Department in wildlife conservation in the region.