Man-animal conflict: Assam forms response teams

Guwahati, March 30 (IANS) Assam has formed Rapid Response Teams (RRTs) to deal with growing instances of man-animal conflict, with 12 leopards having been killed in the last three months when they strayed into human habitations.

The government has also put in place a 24X7 helpline - with telephone number 03612630046 - to which the RRTs will respond immediately.

Forest Minister Rockybul Hussain said that at present, five RRTs have been formed to deal with incidents in and around Guwahati.

"We have formed five RRTs in Guwahati, Lokhra, Palasbari, Sonapur and Rani forest ranges under Guwahati Forest Divisions by involving the rangers of five forest ranges," said the minister.

"The RRTs will be equipped with a vehicle, a veterinarian, personnel of the Forest Protection Force and gadgets like tranquillizers. If there is a conflict between man and animal, people can use the helpline to inform the RRTs, which would reach the spot in the shortest possible time to defuse the problem either by tranquillizing the animal or other means."

Decreasing forest cover has led to a growth of man-animal conflict in Assam. At least 12 leopards have lost their lives at the hands of irate mobs in various parts of the state in the last three months. A few people were also injured.

Shrinking habitats due to deforestation often forces leopards to stray into human habitation, leading to conflict.

"Besides, the RRTs will also organise awareness drives in conflict prone areas to make people aware of security measures which are supposed to be adopted during man-animal conflict and the necessity of conservation of wildlife species," he said.

"RRTs will be formed under all 21 forest divisions in Assam in a phased manner. There will be a central team in each forest division followed by another team in each forest range under the divisions," Hussain said.

He appealed to people to use the helpline instead of attacking the animals and killing them.