By Sibdas Kundu
A herd of elephants is giving sleepless nights to residents of both Balasore and Mayurbhanj.
Twenty-three elephants, including four tuskers and an equal number of calves migrating from Jharkhand, have sneaked into the state via Bengal. The animals are now at Sataghati in Kuldhia sanctuary of Balasore.
The forest department, which is keeping a watch on their movements, presumes that the herd would stay in the Nilgiri forests in Balasore district for a few days. While the jumbos have not caused any major damage to property except one house, they have eaten the leftover rabi crops.
“Little can be done about the elephants other than monitoring their movements and preventing their entry to human habitations,” said Kuldhia range officer Rabinarayan Mahapatra.
The department said the Kuldhia sanctuary had about 100 water reservoirs and 15 salt licks.
“There are four minor irrigation projects inside the sanctuary, apart from some 100 water-harvest structures within the protected forest. It also houses about 15 salt licks, including 12 natural ones. These are the basic requirements of jumbos,” said Nilgiri range officer Laxman Pradhan.
“Since they get sufficient water and salt, the environment is conducive for them and they could stay here for some days,” he said.
Divisional forest officer of Balasore Harshbardhan Udgata said: “We had a co-ordination meeting with the electricity department and they are extending good co-operation. The electricity staff members are moving with our personnel and snapping power in places where the elephants are present.”
Elephants generally migrate to the state between the end of November and beginning of December coinciding with the harvest of paddy crops and return after about a month’s stay in Mayurbhanj and Balasore. On this occasion, they have arrived within four months of their return.
The jumbos have infiltrated into the region, despite the presence of solar fencing and trenches in Mayubhanj, which shares a border with Bengal. “The entire length of the 72km boundary with Bengal couldn’t be protected by solar-powered fencing and trenches. With the available funds, we could only build 25km of fencing and 12km of trenches,” said Baripada divisional forest officer Sanjay Kumar Swain.