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Salt bait for Dalma denizens

The Dalma Wildlife Sanctuary is using an innovative method to prevent elephants from straying away from forests, avert man-animal conflict and draw more tourists to the jumbo reserve.

The authorities have embarked on a massive drive to mix salt with soil near watering holes that the gentle giants frequent when thirsty. According to forest officials, elephants stay put near water bodies because of the salt, which helps fufill their bodies’ sodium needs.

“We have mixed sackfuls of salt with the soil near a dozen of watering holes spread across the 192sqkm sanctuary to keep elephants anchored for the time being,” said Dalma range officer Mangal Kashyap.

According to him, animals find salt on their own by digging earth but they have supplemented the requirement by making the substance easily available.

“It not only prevents dehydration but also helps digest food comfortably. Apart from elephants, animals like deer and langoors too like to have salt on a daily basis,” Kashyap explained.

This apart, he added, tourists come to the sanctuary to watch elephants and the sanctuary authorities need to keep their interests in mind too.

“If elephants stay longer at the water bodies, tourists can watch them properly and click photos,” the range officer said.

Forest guides and trackers take visitors to Badka Bandh, Majla Chotka Bandh, Chotka Bandhi, Bijli Ghati and other water bodies that are frequented by the elephants. According to guides, the best time to watch the jumbos is the afternoon when them come to the ghats in good numbers.

Moreover, lack of salt in the sanctuary often lead elephants to venture into nearby villages. To prevent jumbos from entering human habitat, foresters have also hang salt slabs from trees in Dalma, Dhalbhum and Seraikela-Kharsawan.

“Salt has become quite an effective way to solve a serious problem like man-animal conflict. Thus the Dalma sanctuary has procured a large quantity of salt to meet the requirement,” a forester said.

Foresters keep tabs on the availability of salt near the water bodies and add the substance at a regular interval. “Whenever the amount of salt in the soil goes down, elephants start moving away from the area. This gives us an indication and we add the substance again,” he added.

Over 150 elephants have returned from their annual sojourn to the jungles of West Midnapore and Bankura in Bengal earlier this month. And there has not been any incident when jumbos ventured into villages till now.