Blame the rain bounty for the delay in return of the prodigals.
More than 100 elephants and their little ones, who had migrated from Dalma hills to Midnapore and Bankura in neighbouring Bengal, are yet to return, choosing to stay put in the Jhunjka jungles of East Singhbhum because of the abundance of water and fodder.
“The elephants should have been back at the Dalma Wildlife Sanctuary by now. But so far, only a dozen have been spotted at the foothills,” said Dalma range officer Mangal Kashyap.
All the elephants, including tuskers and calves, had caught the migration corridor from Midnapore and Bankura jungles in December. “The herds had taken the usual migration corridor but anchored at Dalbhumgarh, Kharsawan and Jhunjki jungles after finding adequate fodder and water there,” he explained.
Last year, Ranchi wildlife division had cautioned visitors about the presence of elephants in the second quarter of February. “Our elephants, 127 in all, were home by February 15 in 2011. This year, we are expecting them back in a week’s time. At the most, they will reach by the first week of March,” the range officer said.
Former Dalma divisional forest officer A.T. Mishra confirmed that a big migrating herd was yet to enter Seraikela even though a small group had been spotted in Bitapur jungles of Kharsawan.
“Sufficient water is available at the checkdams and waterholes that fall along the migration corridor of Dalma elephants, thanks to good rainfall last year. The elephants, happy feasting on the fodder and water, will not move an inch towards Dalma till the stock is exhausted,” he added.
According to Kashyap, the elephants normally started their journey towards Dalma after the end of the harvest season in Bengal. “They shift to Bengal jungles in July and stay there till December. The elephants return to Dalma only when plenty of food and water is available. They stay anchored in the sanctuary for the rest of the year,” he said.
Dalma sanctuary officials said elephants stuck to their designated corridors this time. “The animals start their journey homewards in small and large herds. There are many stops for food and water, but the routes remain the same,” said a forester at the Mango range office.
There are two designated elephant corridors — one from Jhunjka and the other from Burudih. The first one leads to Nutandih, while the second passes through Narsingpur (Ghatshila range), Dalapani, Suklara and Aamdapahari.
Interestingly, both the corridors merge at Mirjadih from where the jumbos cross Haludbani, Bhadodih, Bota and Dimna to reach Dalma. Herds follow these routes with clockwork precision.