A shed destroyed by a wild elephant, Ronaldo, in Janakpur village of Khairhani Municipality – 12, Chitwan is seen in this picture taken on Tuesday morning. Photo: Sabita Shrestha/Republica
CHITWAN, July 24: Popularly known as Ronaldo, a wild elephant has stolen people’s peace of mind in settlements near the Chitwan National Park. On Monday night it wreaked havoc in Janakpur village of Khairhani Municipality – 12. Ronaldo entered a resident, Homenath Dhamala’s house and scattered off around four quintals of rice in store. Then it moved to another local, Gobinda Prasad Bhatta’s house to destroy his storeroom. By that time, villagers had gathered to retaliate the tusker. They chased him away before he could damage the storeroom.
Elephant menace is not a new thing here. People have lived with such troubles for long. Human-wildlife conflict has triggered tragedies in the past wherein either party have been left injured or even dead.
According to locals, ‘Ronaldo is deadly.’ If it is not controlled or kept in captive on time, it can incur a huge loss, locals claim.
Chairperson of Khairhani Municipality – 12, Tikaram Timilsina stated that the elephant has destroyed crops in many hectors. “It has destroyed paddy in planted in many bighas of land around here. Such a massive loss of the crop is going to affect the farmer’s livelihood,” he said.
In Timilsina’s observation, Ronaldo is the same elephant which had sneaked into human settlements four months ago. The pattern of destruction seen in the past and the recent event are the same, he said.
“We do not have the tools to identify such animals. However, all villagers believe that it is Ronaldo who has been troubling us again. Even four months ago, an elephant had stormed in here the same way,” he said.
On Monday, the elephant had entered the settlement at around 11 pm. For two hours it was moving from one place to the other, destroying whatever came in its way. Only after a sizable number of people got together, they gathered the courage to chase him off. “It was so tough for us. We chased him across the river,” reported Timilsina. He added that Ronaldo had earlier destroyed around 400 banana plants.
Forest authorities had installed an electrical fence on the outskirt of the jungle around the Sauraha area to restrict wild animals from entering human settlements. However, this fence has not been functioning for a long time now. To avert such encounters in the future, locals have been pressing for constructing tall concrete walls around the jungle. The demand, however, remains unheard by the authorities concerned, they said.
According to the ward chairperson Timilsina, the only hope to avert such intrusion is to repair the electric fence. For this, he has been talking to buffer zone forest committees. “We have asked them to cooperate for repairing the fence,” he said.
Ronaldo is also being accused of injuring and killing Kanchha Darai, 62, of Badrahani village of Ratnanagar Municipality – 7 a week ago. Darai had died on the spot. According to locals, Ronaldo had dragged him 40 meters further from Bhagmara Chautara where he had encountered Darai and attacked him at around 6.30 am. “This time, Ronaldo has been outside the forest perimeter since a week and has been creating nuisance since,” Timilsina said.
There is a long list of damages done by Ronaldo. According to Bikram Chaudhari of Ratnanagar Municipality – 6, all the rice in his stock was eaten by Ronaldo. “He destroyed my house, ate all my grains,” he lamented.
“Even if we go for compensation, that is a very lengthy process. Such a condition has put all the farmers in huge distress,” he added.
According to Chaudhari, the terror of wild animal has stolen away peace from the villagers’ life. Due to the fear of wild beasts, people have to hide in their houses. “How can we live our lives like this? It’s very tragic,” he noted.
Tikaram Giri, operator of a lodge in Sauraha reported that Ronaldo is an old visitor in the settlements. “Ronaldo is more dangerous than other wild elephants. It has been moving around here for a long time,” he said. He said that the elephant makes round in Sauraha area to meet female elephants. Since there are privately reared elephants in Sauraha area, Ronaldo comes around in search of a female mate.
Locals insist that Chitwan national park should pay attention to the issue and take measures to ensure people’s safety. Settlements near the buffer zone have always been vulnerable to attacks from wild animals.