Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

Villagers near Shilipada cashew forest in Keonjhar district prepare ‘mahua’, a traditional country liquor. However to their utter dismay, when they went inside the forest they found that a herd of elephants have already devoured the water fermented with intoxicating flowers and are in deep sleep.

However, Keonjhar forest department officials disagreed with the villagers by saying that the elephants were just having normal rest and they were not in an inebriated condition.

As per the villagers, a total of 24 jumbos, who have been wreaking havoc in the area for the last few days, were apparently drunk. The jumbo herd was found sleeping in an inebriated condition near the place where ‘mahua’ flowers were kept in water in large pots for fermentation.

“We went into the jungle at around 6 am to prepare ‘mahua’ and found that all the pots were broken and the fermented water is missing. We also found that the elephants were sleeping. They consumed the fermented water and got drunk,” Naria Sethi, a villager, said.

“That liquor was unprocessed. We tried to wake up the animals but failed. The forest department was then informed,” he said.

As per reports, forest department personnel after reaching the spot in the jungle under the Patana forest range had to beat drums to wake the herd up. The elephants then went deep inside the forest. The herd left the place at around 10 am.

The forest officials, however, said that the elephants have not slept drunk after consuming fermented mahua.

“The herd was just taking normal rest there. When the elephants are drunk, they generally create mayhem in the area. But the pachyderms were sleeping peacefully without inflicting any damage in the nearby area. They have not been drunk and the claim by the villagers is baseless,” said forest ranger Ghashinath Patra.

Villagers, on the other hand, insisted that they spotted the elephants sleeping in intoxicated conditions at various places close to the broken pots on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, environmentalists in the State supported the claim by the villagers.

“Elephants in jungle are attracted by the smell of ‘mahua’ flower and liquor. The jumbo herd seems to have been inebriated after drinking the fermented liquor. This is the reason why they are deep asleep in the jungle in a peaceful manner. It will take a few more hours for them to recover completely from the effect of the traditional country liquor,” said environmentalist Biswajit Mohanty.

Notably, the flowers of ‘mahua’ tree (Madhuca longifolia) are fermented to produce an alcoholic drink also called ‘mahua’. Tribal men and women in various parts of India traditionally make this liquor.