Saplings of chilli and lemon are traditionally used to ward off the evil eye. But, the Patharkandi Forest Department is using it for a different purpose – to keep jumbos away from villages in Karimganj district of South Assam.
A report published in the The Telegraph quoted Patharkandi Forest ranger Sukhdeb Saha as saying on Thursday that according to scientific studies, elephants are repelled by the strong smell of chillies and lemons and are also afraid of the thorns in lemon trees. The report further stated that tusker attacks are a perennial problem in Patharkandi, around 80 km from Silchar. The jumbos have razed a large number of houses, killed domestic animals and trampled crops even in the past few months.
Sources said a herd of wild elephants has been wreaking havoc in different areas of Patharkandi circle over the years. The herd initially had nine elephants, three of which died in the past few years. The remaining six continue to cause large-scale destruction in villages and tea gardens, triggering panic among residents from time to time.
The areas affected due to elephant attacks include Hatikhira, Champabari, Bhubrighat, Sonakhira, Chandkhira and Kathaltali. The panic-stricken residents, who have passed many a sleepless nights, have started patrolling the areas at night. The last major attack was in Hatikhira tea garden in the last week of August when the jumbos went on a rampage destroying tea bushes and trampling paddy fields.
To scare away the elephants, the forest department had recently also developed an electronic device in which the sound of bees was recorded and played in different areas as the mighty jumbos are known to be afraid of bees. However, the initiative could not scare the jumbos for long and, very soon, the attacks started again, sources said. Saha said several villages have suffered losses because of attacks by elephants and the department was trying its best to resolve the problem.