Bhubaneswar, July 16 (LocalWire): The man-elephant conflict has reached a flashpoint in Odisha with the government owning up and acknowledging death of around a hundred humans every year due to pachyderm attack.
As many as 369 people were killed and 207 critically injured by elephants during a four-and-a-half year period from January 2015 to June 2019.
The minister for forest and environment, Bikram Keshari Arukha, replying to BJD member Mukesh Kumar Pal’s query iterated a slew of measures initiated by the government to curb cases of elephant rampage in human habitations.
Odisha is home to 1976 elephants, accorded national heritage animal status by the Union government, in 44 forest divisions as per the latest census.
Solar-charged fencing and stone-walled barriers have been erected along the border of vulnerable villages near forests that witness frequent straying of elephants.
Trenches have been dug in places exposed to elephant depredationthat act as natural barriers and prevent the animals from sneaking into villages.
It has often been found that elephants migrate seasonally from neighbouring states of Jharkhand, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Chattishgarh to villages in Odisha in search of food.
Dense forest, standing crops and luxuriant orchards in the state attract elephants to stray.
Coordinated interstate action plan has been formulated to curb the act of straying by these animals, Arukha said.
Protection squads, elephant trackers, forest protection committees have also been constituted to check man-animal conflict.
The forest department has also formed anti-depredation squads to drive away the straying animals, he said.
However, the situation has assumed alarming proportion if conservationists are to be believed.
‘There is possibility of people giving vent to their anger targeting elephants.
Poachers may also take advantage of the situation to lay traps.
Measures to curb the conflict needs to be undertaken on a war-footing,’ said Biswajit Mohanty, Convenor, Gajah Bandhu, an outfit espousing the cause of elephants’ conservation.
‘The government claims of initiating adequate measures but on the ground level, its implementation is left much to be desired.
The forest department hit by skeletal staff is finding it tough,’ he said.
Regular tracking can protect adult tuskers from poachers.
Tribesmen like Malhars, Mankadias and other forest dwellers are the right candidates for such a task, he said.
Public announcement and publicity materials like posters and banners, radio alerts need to be regularly carried out in all vulnerable areas.
The forest department should also conduct awareness programs on how to avoid elephant encounters.
Street lights with inverter back-up should be installed in vulnerable villages to discourage elephant entry and alert locals of their presence at night/dawn.
Air tight storage bins to store paddy and rice should be given to each farmer in the affected areas to avoid elephant raids.
Swachh Bharat toilets should be erected in every household as there are instances of people encountering elephants while venturing into forest to relieve themselves.
Rogue tuskers should be radio collared and RFID listening posts be set up in villages which can pick up signals from 500 meters.
Whenever a rogue male is close by, sirens and lights should switch on to warn villagers.