BHUBANESWAR: Rattled by the growing man-elephant conflict in Dhenkanal, the State Wildlife Wing has begun an exercise to facilitate movement of jumbos from the forest division where the long ranging animals have virtually become islanded.
Three elephant passages created along Rengali reservoir have been abandoned by the pachyderms and the Department wants to know why.
There are about three major elephant groups - their total number pegged at about 125 - in Dhenkanal but the forest authorities have found out that they are not crossing over to adjoining districts.
By remaining insulated to the forest division, these elephants are straying into human habitations, leading to serious conflict situations. In last one year, as many as 11 elephants have died in Dhenkanal Forest Division and majority of the cases include electrocution and poaching. The last incident recorded in Hindol forest range earlier this month had an adult male electrocuted in the vegetable field of a local farmer after it came in contact with a low tension supply line.
Although elephants are known to travel about 60 km to 70 km a day, the jumbos of Dhenkanal have shown a tendency to stay confined to the region. “Once they cross over Rengali, the pachyderms could access forests of Keonjhar and Jajpur districts and even Hadagarh Sanctuary but these groups are not moving out. We are now studying the underlying reasons why these bridges are not being used,” Chief Wildlife Warden SS Srivastava said.
Besides, these groups are also engaged in infighting which has resulted in death of at least two to three calves. The herd from Kapilas range comprises 30 members whereas the one at Joranda has at least 22 elephants. The Hindol group is the largest with about 60 members. Besides, there are smaller groups. In 2012 elephant census, Dhenkanal division had 162 elephants.
Since the district is dotted with industries, roads, railway lines, power and canal projects, human interference has added to the pressure on the jumbos.
Adding to the complexity of the problems, these scattered elephant groups are not even going to Satkosia Wildlife Sanctuary. Wildlife experts say presence of predators may have been preventing the jumbos from entering the sanctuary which also is a tiger reserve.
“It is a typical characteristic we have noticed among elephant herds. Even the large group which heads into Odisha every year from West Bengal does not enter Similipal Tiger Reserve or even the core of Kuldiha Wildlife Sanctuary although they are found in the peripheral regions,” said a wildlife conservationist.
Srivastava said, the Department is planning forest enrichment measures in the district to prevent the jumbos from their depradation activities.