Two big elephant herds, which have stationed themselves close to Jamshedpur along NH-33, are giving villagers sleepless nights.
The herds — one comprising 13 elephants and the other 23 — have dropped anchor near Jaida Temple in Chandil (30km from Jamshedpur) and Hotel Wave International in Asanboni (10km from Jamshedpur), respectively.
While the herd near Jaida Temple has been roaming about for the past five days or so, the one near Asanboni was spotted on Tuesday night.
Seraikela divisional forest officer A.T. Mishra said that his department had been informed and had been monitoring the movement of the pachyderms so as to ensure that no untoward incidents took place.
Sources said that the herds might have been attracted by the growing paddy in the area and hence were staying put.
Though the animals have not damaged any houses or attacked anyone, they had taken a fascination for paddy, causing considerable amount of damage to the growing crop, mostly after sundown in both the areas.
“They hide in the Jaida and Asanboni forests and operate only during the night. They usually trample through the paddy fields, when they are not eating it, leaving a trail of destruction behind. When the sun comes up they again slip back into the adjoining forest covers,” a source said.
The herd has spread panic among the villagers, some of who were also starting to lose their cool, despite repeated requests from the forest department to stay calm.
Forest officer Mishra said he had directed the local range officers to hold meetings with villagers and provide them with guidelines that would help them stay clear of the animals, especially when they are in the search for food.
“We are keeping a close eye on both the herds and are doing our best to drive them back towards the jungles of Seraikela-Kharsawan,” Mishra said.
The senior officer, however, admitted that it might take them some time before they could chase the herds away.
“We are in touch with the villagers who have been provided firecrackers, drums and red chilly and old tyres and tubes to burn just in case the elephants strayed too close,” he said.
He added that such behaviour by the pachyderms was completely normal, as it was their season for migration. However, he did admit that it was the first time that such big herds had strayed from the jungles of Seriakela-Kharsawan to Asanboni and Chandil.