Abundance of water and fodder has held up jumbos in forests of neighbouring Bengal, delaying their return to Dalma hills.
Only a dozen of 156-odd elephants have ambled back to Dalma Wildlife Sanctuary, while the others are still anchored in the jungles of Bankura and Midnapore.
The Dalma authorities were expecting the animals, including calves and tuskers, to return by the end of February.
“They generally return home to the sanctuary by the end of February or at the most the first week of March. But this year, even the month of April is about to end but only a dozen have returned,” Dalma range officer Mangal Kashyap told The Telegraph.
He attributed the delay to availability of food and water.
“I think there is plenty of standing crop in Bankura jungles as the harvest season has not ended. So, there is no dearth of fodder. Moreover, the last monsoon was good, so there is no problem of water either,” he said, adding that they were expecting the jumbos to be back in Dalma in around a fortnight by when the stock would be exhausted.
The range officer added that the returning jumbos would not face any problem as there was plenty of water and fodder in the Dalma sanctuary.
“The 90-odd water holes and 12 check dams are overflowing,” he added.
Moreover, kutchcha roads, which were damaged during the monsoon, have been repaired, while bushes along the elephant corridor have been trimmed.
“We have filled potholes with clay to make the roads motorable and trimmed bushes. Now, our patrol parties can reach villagers swiftly in case of any elephant attack,” said Bhadodih forester Dinesh Kumar.
The Dalma range office has also distributed crackers in villages located near the elephant corridors. Trekkers (village youths recruited to keep tabs on movement of jumbos) have also been asked to stay alert.
The elephants had left for jungles in West Midnapore and Bankura districts of neighbouring Bengal in August-September.
The jumbos normally start returning to Dalma after the end of harvest season in Bengal. They follow two corridors — one from Jhunjka and the other from Burudih.
The first one leads to Nutandih, while the second passes through Narsingpur in Ghatshila range, Suklara and Aamdapahari.
Both corridors merge at Mirjadih from where the jumbos cross Haludbani, Bhadodih, Bota and Dimna to reach Dalma.