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Jumbo toll on Chandil range

Jamshedpur, Nov. 23: The elephant menace in Seraikela-Kharsawan district, a part and parcel of the migrating season of the animals, has hit Chandil forest range this year, with seven persons trampled to death by herds so far.

Kharsawan and Seraikela ranges, which also fall under the Seraikela forest division, have largely been incident-free this season, unlike last year.

Divisional forest officer (DFO) A.T. Mishra said the department had so far paid Rs 25 lakh as compensation to relatives of those killed by elephants, besides damages to crops and property in Chandil range, which comprises Nimdih, Ichagarh and Chandil blocks.

“During the ongoing migration season, separate herds of elephants from Dalma wildlife sanctuary and neighbouring Purulia district of Bengal have killed seven villagers in the Chandil forest range. Besides, the elephants have damaged over 500 acres of paddy crops and destroyed 15 houses while moving from one jungle to another,” said Mishra.

The department has also paid Rs 14 lakh to the kin of the seven victims.

Mishra said 600 cases of crop damage had been filed in the range this year, prompting the forest department to pay Rs 8 lakh to affected farmers.

Besides, Rs 3 lakh have been paid as compensation for houses damaged by the marauding herds.

During the migrating season, roughly from September to March, elephants move from places in the district to Dalma as well as from the sanctuary to Purulia

The DFO pointed out that the animals tend to damage fewer crops towards the end of the migrating season.

He further added, “Two villagers were killed in both Kharsawan and Seraikela ranges last year. Fortunately, there has been no death this year due to restricted movement of elephants in the two ranges. In contrast, the elephants have been very rampant in the jungles of Chandil.”

Three persons were trampled to death in Chandil last year, while the extent of crop damage was also much lower. “Only 450 cases of crop damage involving 300 acres of paddy field had been reported from the range last season,” Mishra added.

“Of the seven deaths in Chandil, two villagers were killed while confronting the elephants and trying to chase them from the fields,” said the source, suggesting that efforts made by officials to contain the menace were inadequate.

Mishra, however, said the department had engaged a 12-member anti-depredation squad, comprising villagers trained by experts from Purulia, in the jungles of Chandil to keep elephants at bay.