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Celebrating jumbo life as mortality takes a dip

Ranchi, April 17: The tiger tale in Jharkhand may be a sorry affair, but elephants are sure taking jumbo strides.

According to records available with the state forest department, the elephant mortality rate is seeing a downward trend. The death count provided by the principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife) shows that in 2007-08, there were 15 deaths, which escalated to 21 in 2008-09. However, this year, it has dropped to 12.

The gentle giants are classified as endangered species under Schedule I of the Wildlife Act and the drop in their mortality rate has understandably left foresters happy.

Wildlife warden J.B. Jauhar said, “Heightened awareness among villagers and measures initiated by the state forest department was yielding benefits. Although, there are stray cases of man-animal conflict, the number of deaths is coming down steadily.”

“Rogue herds still devour crops and damage homes, but they are local residents have stopped being vengeful. Villagers have changed their attitude towards the animals now that they are compensated for the losses caused by marauding herds in a more efficient manner,” Jauhar said.

Dumka alone is home to 18 elephants. Two years ago, there were only 12. “Jumbo numbers are also on the rise because more calves have been spotted,” said DFO, Dumka, A.B. Singh.

Singh, who took charge of Dumka in 2008, claimed there were around eight elephant deaths that year. “Some were electrocuted and some became victims of villagers’ wrath. This year, only one succumbed to an accident here.”

He added that foresters should be praised for their silent revolution.

Conservator of forests, Ranchi, S.E.H. Kazmi said that the department’s initiative to work in tandem with villagers, especially along elephant corridors, had been innovative and effective in the recent past.

The department had launched a slew of mitigation measures like installation of solar streetlights and water harvesting systems in villages, formation of anti-poaching squads and establishing of flying squads at divisional levels.

Also, harvesting systems along elephant corridors prevented the animals from entering villages in search of food and water, Kazmi pointed out.

“Due to a spectre of drought, not many crops were sown this year. So less crops were damaged,” said A.T. Mishra, DFO (wildlife), Ranchi.

But only half the battle is won. According to Kazmi, development has blocked normal migratory routes of elephants, but the department is soon going to address this problem too.

“Twelve elephant passages have been proposed in the state, including one in Dalma. Each passage will be 50m wide and will be connected to neighbouring states. It is being routed in such a way that the animals will not venture into human habitats,” said Kazmi.

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