Odisha seems to have seen a terrible form of man-elephant conflict in which 685 jumbos have lost their lives while 660 people were killed by marauding pachyderms during past one decade.
During this period, according to written reply furnished by State Forest Minister Bikram Keshari Arukh in the State Assembly on Tuesday, poaching, poisoning and deliberate electrocution constituted major reasons in alarmingly high elephant deaths.
Of 685 elephant deaths, natural causes have been attributed in case of 272 deaths since 2004. While 89 elephants were poached by hunters and wildlife smugglers, 50 and 14 elephants died due to deliberate electrocution and poisoning respectively. Speeding trains have mowed down 16 elephants on railway tracks.
Wildlife wing of Forest Department could not ascertain the reason behind death of 121 elephants. Interestingly, a sizeable number (71) of elephants have died by drowning, falling from hilltop and falling in ditches. Wildlife experts said rampant mining in non-adherence to wildlife plans could be major reason behind such elephant deaths. In fact, 2010-11 and 2012-13 had witnessed annual elephant deaths crossing 80.
As of State wildlife department, 1930 elephants were enumerated in 38 out of total 50 forest divisions across the state.
“A number of steps are being taken to prevent elephant deaths in the State. To confine elephants in forest, new forests having plant species relished by elephants are being created and water-bodies are being restored,” Mr. Arukha said.
Apart from putting up solar fencing to ward off elephants, anti-depredation squads and elephant trackers were engaged to monitor movements of elephants in forest-fringe villages and letting the jumbos enter human habitations, the minister said.
He said the State government had taken up a five-year programme for developing 14 identified corridors since 2012-13.
Since 2004, elephants trampled ready-to-harvest crops on 87,403 acres of land, besides causing full damage of 2479 houses and partial-damage of 5545 houses. The State Government has so far disbursed Rs. 43.35 crore as compensation for loss of human lives and crops by elephants.