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Tusker alert for devotees at Dalma on Shivratri

Foresters worried about presence of four herds of 50 jumbos on route to temple

HOLY DATE: Devotees proceed to the Shiva Temple atop Dalma hills on Tuesday. Picture by Bhola Prasad

Jamshedpur: The annual Shivratri trek to the temple atop Dalma hills has begun in right earnest but this time, the authorities are worried about the presence of an unusually high number of elephant herds in and around the wildlife sanctuary.

Forest department sources said on Tuesday that they were on alert because in addition to two separate herds of 20 elephants (14 and 6) that were inside the 192sq km sanctuary, there were additional visitors from Odisha stationed in the fringes. While one was a herd of 18 elephants form Keonjhar that had recently wreaked havoc in some villages of Seraikela, another was a group of 12 elephants that had also come from the neighbouring state.

Dalma divisional forest officer C.M.P. Sinha said they were concerned about man-animal conflicts, since as many as 50,000 pilgrims trek to the hill from Jamshedpur, Chandil and Ghatshila during Shivratri.

"We have deployed two squads of foresters, guards and trackers, essentially village youths recruited on daily wage, inside the sanctuary. Twenty people will patrol the trekking routes to the temple. They have been given torches. Four forest vehicles have also been pressed into service," he added.

According to local residents, devotees had already started the trek, while more would join in later on Tuesday evening. Some devotees would be staying back and return next morning.

Sinha the 20 resident elephants were inside the core area of the sanctuary and weren't likely to come out. "But, we are concerned about elephants from Odisha who are in the fringes and may enter the sanctuary any time," he said.

According to the DFO, who visited the sanctuary on Tuesday, forest staff and trackers would also be deployed at Makulakocha, Fadlugora, Bhadodih and TCI godown, the four entry points to the temple - 16km from Makulakocha, 8km from Fadlugora, 15km from Bhadodih and 12km from TCI godown. But most pilgrims preferred the designated routes of Makulakocha and Fadlugora.

Forest officials were also taking steps to prevent fires inside the sanctuary. "Tribals burn tyres and carry them inside the sanctuary for light along the route. There is a likelihood of a fire breaking out as dry leaves are scattered all over the sanctuary," DFO Sinha added.

The DFO said that generally, elephants did not harm anyone unless they were provoked. "People get injured once they come across herds. They tend to run and in the process fall and get injured. Our vehicles, equipped with first-aid kits, will be there to ferry the injured to nearby hospitals," he said.

Sinha said the elephants from Odisha were stationed at Patamda in East Singhbhum and nearby of Gerua, Mirjadih and Kusumtal in the foothills. Mahouts from Bengal drove away one herd from Seraikela three days back. On Tuesday, a 55-year-old woman was injured at Kundarukocha village in Patamda block while trying to flee. Dalma range officer R.P. Singh said she had been sent to MGM Hospital with minor injuries.

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