Bhubaneswar, Dec. 3: Rising incidents of human-elephant conflict has become a headache for the state government. As many as 354 people were killed by the jumbos in the past six years, while 368 elephants died during the same period.
Between 2008-09 and 2013-14 (till November 15 this year), the number of elephant deaths caused by poaching, electrocution, and accidents is higher than the casualties due to natural reasons and diseases. Nearly 150 elephants died due to poaching, electrocution, and accidents as against 144 natural deaths.
The forest department has no reason to ascribe for the death of 74 elephants during this period. Sources said that in most of these cases, the confusion was caused due to lack of evidence, which was destroyed by poachers.
Wildlife experts are worried as elephant deaths caused by poisoning and train accidents are on the rise. Though there were no cases of poisoning of elephants between 2001-02 and 2009-10, in the past four years, 17 jumbos were poisoned and 31 died due to poaching.
During 2008-09 and 2013-14, 13 elephants were killed in train accidents. The death of five elephants by Chennai-bound Coromandel Express in Ganjam district on December 30 last year had exposed the lack of co-ordination between the forest officials and railway authorities while dealing with the jumbo movement in and around railway tracks.
Deaths caused by deliberate and accidental electrocution have become alarming in the past five years. While 33 elephants were killed in deliberate electrocution, accidental cases killed another 35.
The state government, however, has claimed a rise in the state’s elephant population. The latest census in 2012 had shown presence of 1,930 elephants in the state — 44 more than the 2010 head count.
The man-animal conflict today found echo in the Assembly today with over a dozen MLAs from various political parties voicing their concern. “Elephant herds have almost entered Bhubaneswar and Rourkela,” said an MLA.
Congress member from Talsara Prafulla Majhi said elephant herds were wreaking havoc in Sundargarh district, while former finance minister Prafulla Chandra Ghadei said Sukinda mining belt was badly hit by jumbo menace.
Forest minister Bijoyshree Routray said squeezing of elephant habitats due to urbanisation, mining and industrialisation had forced the wild animals to stray into human habitations, leading to man-animal conflict.
MLAs from Balasore district, including Independent member from Niligiri Pratap Chandra Sarangi and BJD member from Remuna Sudarsan Jena, expressed concern over the depredation by elephant herds in Nilgiri. Jiban Pradip Dash (BJD) asked the government to constitute a House Committee to work out a permanent solution.
Three elephant reserve areas — Mayurbhanj, Mahanadi and Sambalpur — are functioning in the state along with 14 elephant corridors. Anti-depredation squads along with elephant trackers are being deployed to prevent man-elephant conflicts. “We have also erected boundary walls and trenches to prevent elephants from entering in to human habitation,” he said.