A recommended HEC mitigation practice along forest fringes, using crop species that wild elephants find inedible, is misconceived and counter-productive, NWA field studies show.
Alternative cropping is among HEC management guidelines recommended by conservation authorities in some countries (http://www.forest.uk.gov.in/files/01-HEC-guidelines.pdf), some scholars and hence some NGOs as well.
As a result, villages along forest fringes have been advised to switch to crops that elephants do not eat, like chilly, lemon, pepper, mustard and trees like eucalyptus and rubber.
However, NWA field studies show the following:
• On finding no edible food along forest fringes, hungry elephants tend to venture out further, sometimes up to 10 km deep into human settlement areas, to find their preferred crop. In the process, the moving herd not only damages forest and agricultural lands but also significantly increases human-elephant encounter and human casualty, especially in newly affected villages having no experience in handling HEC.
• Planting trees like eucalyptus and rubber is similarly counter-productive since wild elephants see trees only as an extension of the forest and hence get drawn deeper into human settlement areas. NWA has regularly observed during HEC mitigation operations that elephants are fully aware of what constitutes a human area and an elephant area.