By Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar– Odisha has seen terrible human-animal conflict in the last six years, resulting in the deaths of 454 people and 2,261 animals, including 388 elephants, a Forest Department report said.
Poaching, poisoning, accidents and deliberate electrocution are the major reasons for the alarmingly high elephant deaths, the report said.
While 362 persons were killed by elephants in the past six years, 92 were killed by other animals, the report said, adding that 157 persons were injured by elephants and 736 by other animals.
Besides elephants, the human-animal conflict also involved saltwater crocodiles, sloth bears, wild boars and leopards.
This apart, 164 cattle have been killed by elephants, which also damaged 4,405 houses and crops over 69,071 acres, the report said.
While 28 jumbos were poached by hunters and wildlife smugglers, nine died due to poisoning and 60 in road and train accidents. Electrocution claimed 50 lives during the period, the report said.
“Elephants are entering human habitats in search of food due to forest fires, urbanisation, industrialisation, increasing population and land encroachment. This issue remains a matter of concern and a multi-pronged approach is being adopted to address the situation,” Orissa’s Forest and Environment Minister Bikram Keshari Arukh told IANS.
Wildlife experts however expressed the view that the government has failed to formulate any concrete strategy to save the elephants which barge into human habitats, risking their lives as well as wreaking havoc in the area.
They said rampant mining and non-adherence to wildlife plans could be the major reason behind such elephant deaths.
“The government must fix accountability on the forest officials for the death of the jumbos. Many elephants are dying due to poaching and electrocution, which can be prevented with the fixing of accountability,” environmental activist Biswajit Mohanty told IANS.
The minister however asserted that the state government is taking a number of steps to prevent elephant deaths.
“New forests with plant species that elephants relish are being created. Besides, fresh water bodies are being created and the existing ones are being renovated. Stone walls, trenches and solar-powered wire fencing have been put up in sensitive areas to prevent elephants from entering human habitats,” Arukh said.
Besides, anti-depredation squads and elephant trackers have been engaged to monitor the movement of elephants and prevent them from entering human habitats, the minister added.
A site-specific wildlife conservation plan has been made mandatory for any clearance of mining or industrial projects. The plan takes care of protection and conservation requirements of wildlife and improvement of their habitat, he said, adding the state has also identified 14 elephant corridors.