With their habitats disappearing due to the depleting natural forest cover, wild elephants have begun frequenting villages and crop fields near their habitats in search of food.
Earlier, the habitats, which were covered in forests, made a good home for wild animals. But, the forest cover made the areas difficult to access.
Forest reserves in Taninthayi, Pathein, Ngapudaw, and Thabaung townships in Ayeyawady Region, Rakhine State, and western areas of Bago Region are home to wild elephants.
Recently, a group of wild elephants damaged about six acres of paddy fields at the Ywathit Village in Ngwesaung Township, Ayeyawady Region, in search of food. Villagers were killed in some incidents.
Similar incidents are mostly being reported in Taninthayi, Ayeyawady, and Bago Regions, and Rakhine State.
Expansion of human settlements and deforestation has resulted in the loss of habitat of wild animals and human-animal conflict.
When elephants and humans come into conflict, people may feel the need to retaliate. All too often in such conflicts, the elephants ultimately lose. Human-elephant conflict will only worsen in the coming years due to continued increase in population, the associated growth of agriculture, and a reduction in wildlife habitats.
To reduce human-elephant conflicts in the Ayeyawady Region, the Myanmar Timber Enterprise in Ayeyawady Region is forming five Elephants Emergency Response Units (EERUs) which can control wild elephants.
If they are successful in reducing human-elephant conflict, similar units should also be formed in areas facing the same problem.
Another issue which is resulting in the decline in elephant population is poaching, and the recent discovery of two carcasses in Ayeyawady Region has raised concerns that poaching for ivory and skin still remains a threat to wild elephants.
Today, poachers are targeting not only adult wild elephants, but also younger ones as their skins are highly valued in the market.
Taking stock of the two situations, we would like to urge the related departments and organizations to work with villagers to find suitable protective measures against wild elephants, while also saving wild elephants from poachers.
We need to protect elephants as well as forests. Now, wild elephants have lost their habitats as people have felled trees in large numbers.
Today, raising awareness about the nature and behavior of elephants and the threats they face is a must, and measures need to be taken as quickly as possible to provide protection to humans and elephants.