Jorhat, Oct. 8: A herd of over 100 elephants, which visit Majuli island often, have returned after a gap of three months, wreaking havoc in the saporis (sandbars) in the eastern tip of the island, damaging paddy fields and a few houses, including the office of an LP school.
Divisional forest officer (Jorhat), N.K. Malakar, said the herd arrived on the island on Saturday.
The DFO said a 12-member team, led by Majuli forest beat officer Atul Das, has been camping at Dhanai sapori since Sunday night to stop the elephants from entering the villages.
The team, armed with crackers, double-barrel guns, .303 rifles and searchlights, is using bikes and boats to keep track of the jumbos.
Das told this correspondent that in the past three days, the herd has damaged ripened paddy in about 300 bighas of land spread over Lasun, Kapahtoli, Kumalia and Dhanai.
The herd has even destroyed two thatched farmhouses.
He said the office of the Dhanai Sapori LP School was damaged by jumbos last night.
The forest beat officer said the damaged room and a few classrooms of the school were made of bamboo and wood.
The school’s functioning has not been affected by the destruction as the school employees are working from a makeshift location.
Das said in the past three days, the forest staff have fired 35 rounds in the air and also exploded several crackers to disperse the jumbos.
The department today sent reinforcements from here to the island.
The official said last night, a calf was born in the herd and hence they were expected to stay in the area for the next few days.
This particular herd of elephants, which for the past 15 years have been moving along the Brahmaputra in between two national parks, Kaziranga in the west and Dibru-Saikhowa in the east, is responsible for the death of five persons.
The elephants have damaged large paddy and vegetable fields in villages along the Brahmaputra, in Majuli and adjoining saporis.
Forest department sources blamed encroachment and massive deforestation in neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh for the loss of habitat and blocking of elephant corridors, which have forced the herd to move along the river in search of food.