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Tuskers kill two in Orissa

Bhubaneswar, Jan. 1: The human-elephant conflict reared its ugly head yet again in Orissa as a rampaging herd trampled two persons to death and injured another in separate incidents in Dhenkanal district today.

The herd, which strayed out of a nearby reserve forest, killed a villager and injured another when they were being chased away. Maheswar Dehury from Barada block died on the spot while another villager was injured.

In the second incident, Mitu Pradhan of Kamakhyanagar block was killed in a similar manner. Irate villagers later blocked the road in Gondia.

Wildlife officials here did not have adequate information on the incidents till late afternoon. Chief wildlife warden A.P. Tripathy could not say how the herd had strayed out.

The fast-depleting forest cover is aggravating the human-elephant conflict in the state. As a result, elephant herds are frequently straying into the city. Last month, a herd from the nearby Chandaka sanctuary had killed a person in Naharkanta. Elephants have killed 13 people in the state since 1996.

Last week, a 10-year-old female calf, which had strayed out of the Chandaka sanctuary, died after being run over by a Chennai-bound train on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar.

Environmentalists in the state attribute the loss of habitat and fodder to cattle grazing, encroachment, timber smuggling and firewood extraction. Over 370 families are still residing in the sanctuary area though their relocation and rehabilitation money is deposited with the Cuttack district collector for the last 10 years.

The villagers have taken over valley areas in the sanctuary which are frequented by elephants. The water bodies in the sanctuary have been tapped for agriculture, depriving the elephants of drinking water sources.

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