Bhubaneswar, October 3 (LocalWire): Human-elephant conflict has reached a flashpoint in Odisha in the current year with as many as 59 people being killed by the pachyderms that had sneaked into human habitation and trampled them down.
According to the state government data, the death of 33 elephants was also recorded during the six-month period from 1 April to 30 September this year. Overall, the state has lost 124 elephants during the last 18 months.
During 2018-19, the state recorded its highest 91 elephant deaths in a year, of which 36 were due to unnatural causes while no reason could be ascertained in 27 cases.
Over 92 humans were also killed by the elephants during the period.
The year also saw the highest number of elephants dying due to electrocutions. Of the 24 deaths, 12 elephants were electrocuted by hanging power lines and the rest by hooking of live wire for poaching.
The electrocution of seven elephants in a single incidence near Kamalanga in Dhenkanal on 27 October is recorded as one of the biggest ever tragedy in the annals of India’s wildlife history.
According to the available data 727 elephants have died in the state since April 2010, of which 35% or 257 deaths have been reported due to unnatural causes.
While 113 elephants were electrocuted during the period, 77 died of poaching.
The poisoning trap laid by poachers led to the death of 26 elephants, equal numbers were run over by speeding trains, five were mowed down by vehicles on the highway, while ten died after falling into manmade structures like open wells and irrigation projects.
Wildlife activists allege that the state government has done very little to prevent the unnatural deaths of elephants.
While hundreds of locations still exist that have sagging power lines, measures to prevent live wire poaching are found wanting because of slack night patrolling, allege wildlife activist Biswajit Mohanty.
The state has also done very little to build underpasses across vulnerable railway lines and roads to provide safe passage to the elephants and other wildlife, he
The safety of these heritage animals is at stake. The habitat of these animals is getting encroached for mining, farming, industries, urbanization and their traditional paths getting cut off by irrigation canals, railway lines, and mines. In 1979 there were 2044 elephants in Odisha which has plunged to 1976, he said.
The government needs to initiate urgent measures to save the national heritage animal, wildlife activist opined.
“The state government has initiated measures to protect the elephants and humans. Spots have been identified where elephants sneak into human habitation areas. Elephant squads are on round the clock job to keep the animals at bay. In vulnerable patches, trenches have also been dug out to stop trespass by elephants,” said Chandaka Dampara divisional forest officer Kedar Kumar Swain.