Rhinos and Elephants in Tea Estate

Till about three days ago, it was Kanjhi Oraon’s responsibility as the sardar (overseer) of workers at Jadabpur Tea Estate to roam around the plantation, monitoring the pluckers.

Now, he does not dare to go anywhere near the northern fringes of the estate for fear of the four-footed hulks who have planted themselves there.

A herd of wild elephants and two-three rhinoceroses have come uninvited from Gorumara National Park — located right next to the estate, around 75km from Siliguri — and are refusing to leave.

“We are facing a tough time as no worker is ready to go to those parts of the plantation that are located close to the forest,” said Pradip Ghosh, the manager of the estate. “I don’t think I can persuade them otherwise until the animals clear away.”

Ghosh was one of the first to notice the pachyderms. “I was out on a recce of the garden on Tuesday morning when I saw the elephant herd and the rhinos. We are keeping a safe distance, fearing that they might turn aggressive any moment,” he said.

While the rhinos can mostly be seen squatting on the ground, nibbling at grasses and shrubs, the elephants, about 30-40 of them, are ravaging the area, leaving no option for the management but to suspend operations.

Kanjhi though said it was the rhinos that worried them more.

“We are accustomed to elephant intrusions and were not too bothered when we saw the herd this time,” he said. “However, the two or three rhinos that followed the elephants came as a shock — we are terrified of being charged at by those one-horned beast.”

The Jadabpur estate has 330 workers and a total area of 277 hectare, with the plantation spread across 150 hectare. It is frequented by wild animals because of its proximity to Gorumara National Park.

“The road leading to the garden separates it from the forest,” said Ghosh. “There is a fence near Kalipur, but that is not effective in stopping animals from entering the garden.”

About a month ago, some elephants came in, injured a person and damaged a couple of houses, the garden residents said. They admitted to having a mixed reaction to the presence of the rhinos: wonder at seeing the animals for the first time from such close quarters and fear at being chased or injured by them.

A forest official posted at Gorumara said he and his colleagues knew about the situation at Jadabpur tea estate and were keeping a close watch on the animals.

Source: The Telegraph