In Frames | Treetop watch

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Assam has more than 5,700 elephants, the highest number after Karnataka in India. A few of them get orphaned every year primarily due to human-animal conflict and natural calamities. Sadly, the human-elephant conflict is on the rise in Assam. Dwindling habitats across the State have pushed elephants into an increasingly hostile relationship with humans sharing the same land. The pachyderms venture out close to human settlements and damage farms and property, and, sometimes, even attack people.

The frequency of encounters with elephants is more for the people of central Assam that has a peculiar landscape with small patches of forests interspersed with paddy fields and other valuable crops. The pachyderms visit the region for about four months every year, their numbers and duration of stay is ever increasing.

To protect their crops, the farmers here have built tongi ghor or tree houses high up in the branches near their agricultural fields. Equipped with torches and a few firecrackers, they spend the night keeping watch over their crops and to deter wandering wild elephant herds.

If the villagers don’t drive the elephants out, they would have to starve as a raiding elephant herd can damage crops.

Photo:
Ritu Raj Konwar

Long night ahead: A farmer keeps a keen eye out for marauding elephants from the safety of a tree house, locally called tongi ghor, in Amsoi village in Nagaon district of Assam.

Photo:
Ritu Raj Konwar

Lone ranger: A wild elephant steps out of a patch of forest in search of food crops at Jagiroad in Morigaon district.

Photo:
Ritu Raj Konwar

Lost yield: A farmer shows his crops damaged by wild elephants at Nihangdikchak village in Kamrup (Metro) district.

Photo:
Ritu Raj Konwar

Wind Energy: The fluttering and crackling of plastic sheets hung up in fields scare away birds in Khaloibari village in Kamrup (Metro) district.

Photo:
Ritu Raj Konwar

On the watch: Scarecrows have been set up in farms on the outskirts of Guwahati in a bid to deter wild animals.

Photo:
Ritu Raj Konwar

Cautious always: A farmer harvest his crop, mindful that wild elephants can move in any time.

Photo:
Ritu Raj Konwar

Arboreal shelter: A farmer builds a tree house near his paddy field to watch over his crops at Amsoi village in Nagaon district.

Photo:
Ritu Raj Konwar

Defending the crop: Farmers getting ready to spend the night in tree houses to protect their ripened grain at Nihangdikchak village in Kamrup (Metro) district.

Photo:
Ritu Raj Konwar

Fiery resistance: If elephants enter the fields, farmers use fire torches to keep them away.

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