Odisha grapples with a problem of elephantine proportions
A hurt elephant, with a tyre entangled in its front left foot, has kept the Odisha Forest Department personnel on their toes for over the past one month.The elephant has been spotted limping in jungles on the fringe areas of the Capital. It continues to be in pain even as attempts to tranquillise the animal and remove the tyre have failed so far. At least five forest personnel were hurt when the elephant attacked them in Athagarh in January.The incident has brought the spotlight back on the human-elephant conflict in the State, which has seen 423 elephant deaths since 2011-12, while 421 humans have been trampled by the jumbos during the same period.Trend observedOver 203 persons have been injured in elephant attacks and standing crop on thousands of acres has been damaged by raiding elephants, a trend that has now been observed in 27 of 30 districts of Odisha.Athagarh in Cuttack district witnesses regular face-off between marauding elephants and villagers. While the elephants look for opportunities to raid crops, the villagers get united to repel the herds.Recently, wildlife activists launched a campaign in social media using hashtag #GiantRefugees and urged Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to act and find a long-term solution to the problem. Lack of fodder and water for elephants and increase in cropping areas near forests are being cited as the prime reasons behind elephants frequently straying into human habitations.Indiscriminate miningWildlife activists say indiscriminate mining and growing industrial activities have been permitted without considering the impact on local elephant population.Odisha Chief Wildlife Warden Sidhant Das said the department was doing everything possible to protect elephants and reduce animal-man conflict.The Odisha government feels two more elephant reserves — Brahmani-Baitarani and South Odisha elephant reserves – will help in restricting elephant movement within forested areas. After the declaration, the area under elephant reserves will be about 25% of Odisha’s total forest area and about 90% of elephants will be within these reserves.Biswajit Mohanty of Wildlife Society of Odisha, however, claimed the proposals for the creation of elephant reserves have not been notified by the State under pressure of powerful mining lobby.