An eight-foot high and 2.5km-long stone wall with a barbed wire fence is coming up around the Chandaka Wildlife Sanctuary in Odisha to save the residents of the capital Bhubaneswar from possible elephant attacks.
The protective wall stretches from Kalinga Studio Square to Baramunda, the city area closest to the sanctuary known for its elephants.
Other city areas bordering the sanctuary are already protected with trenches and small stone walls.
The sanctuary, which was on the city outskirts, is now very much a part of Bhubaneswar since the smart city has expanded in the last few decades. Bhubaneswar is one of the few cities in the country with a wildlife sanctuary jutting into it.
Divisional forest officer (DFO) of Chandaka Wildlife Sanctuary, Mohd. Jameel told The Telegraph: “This particular part of the city is directly exposed to the sanctuary. If elephants intrude into the city from this side, they will directly reach the main bus stand and the national highway and can even march up to the airport. This can cause havoc. We have some experience of this from the past.”
He said: “We have constructed the elephant-proof barrier wall with concertina wire with two specific objectives — to protect the city from elephant raids and to eliminate the threat of poaching. The construction is almost over.” Forest officials said there was also a chance of elephants getting electrocuted if elephants entered the city where they could come in contact with high-tension wires.
“Earlier, there was a protective wall bordering the city outskirts but it was low, even lower than the height of the newly constructed road bordering the sanctuary. Both elephants and the people crossed it conveniently. There were instances of elephants entering the city. We also noticed people taking the road parallel to the sanctuary, stopping their vehicles and throwing food packets inside the sanctuary. All this was detrimental to the health of animals in the sanctuary. The new wall is good. Besides, barbed wire fences will add to the protection and poachers won’t be able to enter the area,” the DFO said.
Chandaka, which has an area of 194sq km, has around 40 elephants now.
“It’s not possible to cover the entire stretch of the sanctuary with walls. We are erecting the walls near the city parts exposed to the sanctuary. The wall, covering a distance of 2.5km, has come up with an investment of Rs 2 crore. The work is almost over,” Jameel said.
The forest officials are now tracking the movement of the elephants using various methods including the deployment of forest guards. “We have found that the herds are no longer moving outside and are content with whatever food is available here in the sanctuary. The elephants require bamboo leaves and other trees for their sustenance. They are plentily available in the sanctuary. Sometimes they enter nearby paddy fields but come back. They return to the sanctuary as they feel safe here. No cases of poaching have been reported here,” Jameel added.