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Dalma herds run amok

Jamshedpur, Feb. 19: The return of elephants to their native Dalma has sparked panic among villagers after a herd of 12 ravaged three huts and injured an elderly woman at Gerua, a hamlet in the wildlife sanctuary, this morning.

The herd, which included tuskers, also wiped off banana plantation at Gerua at 2am before residents chased it away to the sanctuary via Dimna.

Basanti Bauri (67), a widow, was rushed to MGM Medical College and Hospital with head injury and underwent a CT scan.

Later, Mango forester Ravinder Kumar handed her compensation of Rs 5,000.

“We brought her to the hospital after villagers alerted us. The elephants have already left Midnapore and Bankura jungles for Dalma,” he said.

According to him, Bauri was sleeping when the herd entered Gerua.

“Bricks fell on her head after the herd damaged the wall of her mud hut. The herd seemed excited as the animals were returning home after six months in the jungles of Bengal,” he added.

Another herd of 15 devoured bananas at Bota village, which too falls in the sanctuary. Over 80 elephants have returned to Dalma while some are anchored at Jhargram in Bengal.

“The remaining elephants are expected to make way to Chakulia (Jharkhand), which is some 25km from Jhargram. All the elephants, which had migrated to the jungles of West Midnapore and Bankura, have left for their home,” said Kumar, adding they were all likely to be back in Dalma in a week.

Meanwhile, the Dalma range office has distributed firecrackers among villagers and asked the trackers — village youths employed on daily wage basis to keep watch on animals inside the sanctuary — to monitor the movements of returning elephants.

“It is the trackers who are giving us information about the elephants,” another forester added.

Residents in hamlets and villages that dot the sprawling 192sqkm sanctuary are enduring sleepless nights already.

“We remain awake all night and keep watch over our provisions. We burst firecrackers at the sight of a herd. It is very dangerous to chase the elephants as they may attack anytime,” said Sanatan Tudu of Mirhadih.

The elephants cover around 40km a day while ambling back to the sanctuary. They normally begin their journey towards Dalma after the end of the harvest season in the neighbouring state.

Dalma officials said the elephants, whether in small and large herds, stuck to the familiar corridors.