With the three-day elephant census in the state having concluded on Thursday, wildlife experts have said that the number of pachyderms in the Chandaka elephant sanctuary is unlikely to reach double digits.
Prior to the publication of the final figures, preliminary estimates reveal that the chances of number of elephants exceeding eight in the sanctuary are bleak.
Census in the four forest divisions under the Chandaka forest range started simultaneously with the state-wide enumeration. A three-member team each was deployed in as many as 36 units of the four divisions—Patrapada, Haldia, Dampada and Bhubaneswar.
The enumerators were positioned deep inside the forest and were monitoring from the watch towers, water hides and also following the footmarks. Direct sighting method was used to spot and enumerate the herd of elephants.
According to sources, a male elephant from Deulipatana forest has been spotted near Bharatpur reserve forest, besides 2-3 more pachyderms in the jungle.
Forest officials have estimated the presence of mere 5-6 jumbos in the Chandaka forest division.
“It is too early to arrive at numbers. It will take a few more days to come to a conclusion. We have received the statistics from the enumerators, but they are yet to be compiled. It will take 3-4 days more. The final report will come out in a week’s time,” DFO Manoj Kumar Mohapatra said.
However, the senior official admitted that the number of elephants at Chandaka forest range has declined significantly.
On the other hand, some senior officials opined that the fall in number of elephants in Chandaka can be attributed to their roving characteristics. They do migrate from Chandaka to Daspalla, Athagarh and other forests.
Reacting to this, some experts have criticised the statement of the senior officials.
“There were over 70 elephants in Chandaka by 2007. But it dropped to 50 by 2010. How did they vanish in the last five years? While the officials attribute this to food scarcity, the real reason is something else. The forest cover has not depleted in the region. Rather, it has increased more or less,” said anexpert.
Notably, the expansion of the city limits and construction of houses on forest lands have encroached upon their habitat. The high mast lights have also played a distraction to them. Moreover, the farm lands in the vicinity of the sanctuary is shrinking which is proving to be a let down for the jumbos.