Elephant fences are a necessary evil in the landscape around Far Cry, and many similar rural areas. On the one hand, they protect farmers’ crops from marauding elephant herds, yet on the other hand they deny these herds their traditional rights of way, dating from time immemorial. Research has shown that elephants prefer to feast on tender young shoots and plants commonly found in human cultivations, rather than on the dry zone forest leaves and grasses which are difficult to digest. For us lovers of nature, the fencing ruins the beauty of the pristine natural environment as well.
The system installed around Galkadawala village is part of a large network of fences that “protect” an entire cluster of villages. It is powered by solar panels, and requires constant maintenance of the vegetation around it to ensure that the wires are not compromised through contact with the vegetation. Farmers organizations have undertaken this task.
At the time of writing it is reported that the fences have ceased to be operational after several solar panels were stolen. It is difficult to understand a mindset that would put lives and livelihoods at risk by such an act. However, herd incursions are now frequently reported, and farmers are resorting to the age old practice of guarding their crops through the night from the vantage point of tree houses.
In the midst of the current crisis, it is uncertain how quickly the authorities will react.