Unabated man-animal conflicts turning Odisha into a graveyard of elephants

Bhubaneswar: Rise in the incidents of man-animal conflict has not only taken a toll on human lives across Odisha but also resulted in death of pachyderms at regular intervals besides adding to loss of property.

Movement of stray elephants from core forest areas towards human settlements have posed a big threat to humans and also endangered the lives of the pachyderms.

From forests of Sundergarh’s Bonai and Panposh to Dunguripalli area of Kantabanji Range in Kalahandi, the entire state continues to witness the onslaught of the wild pachyderms. The condition has become so severe that several areas like Puri district’s Kanas block which rarely witnessed the presence of wild elephants are also experiencing such instances.

“This is for the first time that a dozen elephants crossed through our village triggering panic in our area,” said a resident of Bonai.

While farmers bear the brunt because of this situation, anti-socials and ones involved in wildlife poaching are taking undue benefits from the mess.

During the harvest period of paddy crops, movement of elephants towards human settlements has increased more than ever and poachers are quite happy to set up traps to exterminate these pachyderms for smuggling purposes.

From the brutal killing of an elephant by use of explosives at Rajanagar under Athagarh forest division a few days ago to death of an elephant near Nimakhandipentha area in Digapahandi forest division today clearly shows the gravity of the situation.

Sources said that around 65 elephants have died in last nine months. Statistics indicate  that in last 8 years more than 600 elephants have died in the state due to several reasons like poaching, electrocution, accidents, sharp reduction of habitats while human interference have added to the fatalities.

While a total of 570 people lost their lives due to elephant attacks between 2011-12 and 2017-18, the rate of elephant death is equally disturbing. As many as 618 jumbos have died during the same period, a report by the Wildlife Society of India stated. Around 7984 houses were destroyed while 11,500 acres of standing crops witnessed destruction in the same period.

As per reports, the government has released a total compensation of  Rs 11.67 crore to the people affected by elephant menace between 2011-12 and 2017-18.

On the other hand, ex-gratia of Rs 4 lakh is also being given individually to the kin of those who are killed by elephants.

While wildlife conservationists have shown grave concern over the situation, the forest department is optimistic over minimising the tussle between humans and elephants.

Sasmita Lenka, the DFO of Athagarh Division has vouched for exemplary action against the poaching activity.

“Earlier they used to shoot but now poachers are employing more subtle methods to kill elephants so we have to take stringent action against them,” said Lenka.

Wildlife expert Bijay Ketan Patnaik said, “People should learn how to avoid conflict with elephants and for that they should not grow cultivation which attracts elephants near jungle lands.”