| An elephant and her calf in Saranda. Telegraph picture |
Jamshedpur, June 7: More than a decade of Naxalite presence in Saranda has had little impact on the elephant population, the latest census figures from Asia’s largest sal reserve proof that the jumbos are alive, well and thriving.
During a count in 2010, 139 elephants were traced within the forest that covers an area of 850sqkm in West Singhbhum.
The latest census, carried out on June 1,2 and 3, found 146 of the gentle giants.
Explaining why the elephants had flourished in Saranda, divisional forest officer (DFO) K.K. Tiwary said the increase in the elephant population was due to a positive natural environment that existed in the area.
“The bounty of natural resources like innumerable water bodies and healthy green cover has helped the elephant population to grow. In fact, availability of more than adequate number of water bodies stops the animals from migrating to other jungles in search of fodder and rather, elephants from other jungles tend to venture into Saranda,” said the DFO.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Tiwary said the elephant census was conducted simultaneously in Bengal, Odisha and Jharkhand from June 1 to 3. The figures from Saranda were being compiled today.
“The elephant census was carried out on the basis of actual sighting of the animals at the waterholes where they come to quench their thirst in the evening. Maybe the number of elephants in Saranda is greater than what was actually sighted,” said the DFO.
The senior forest officer pointed out that a count carried out in 2010 put the elephant population at 139. In 2007, there were 123 elephants in the vast reserve.
Tiwary said the census report was still being compiled and the exact number of calves is yet to be ascertained, but the figure would be somewhere around 60. He said an elephant that was less than four feet high was categorised as a calf.
Forest department sources maintained that the latest elephant census was more precise than the counts carried out in 2007 and 2010 because at that time, Saranda was in the control of Naxalites and the entire exercise was superficial as the forest personnel could not venture into the core area. The Naxalites were flushed out during Operation Monsoon in August last year.
Sources said this time, the census was carried out effectively with over 300 members of the forest protection committee participating along with dozens of forest officials.