For the first time, three elephants of South East Tarai forest division of Uttarakhand have crossed over to Pilibhit Tiger Reserve (PTR) and are in the Mahof range forest area. Fearing that the elephants may come close to villages adjacent to PTR, reserve officials are camping in the Mahof range forest area to monitor their movement. Efforts are being made to restrict the movement of these pachyderms and push them back to Uttarakhand forests.
According to the officiating sub divisional forest officer of PTR, KP Singh, they received reports about the elephants’ infiltration on Monday. The animals were physically spotted by the field staff of PTR in compartment number 60 of Mahof range on Tuesday morning.
The elephants had entered PTR through compartment number 96 of Surai range of Uttarakhand and, thereafter, began moving towards compartments number 57 and 60 of the Mahof range. Singh said he had deployed the forest force at the outer road that links the Chuka tourist spot with Bifurcation to prevent the elephants from coming near human habitation.
Explaining what is being feared, Singh said the elephants have easy access to a village belt near Mahof range as the average breadth of the reserve is between 5 km and 7 km. In adjacent Barahi range, it is barely 1km-wide at some spots. The forest teams were concerned about safety of human lives as well as standing crops, especially sugarcane, which is a favourite food for pachyderms, he added.
Singh said the forest teams were waiting for a natural and peaceful return of the elephants to their habitat in Uttarakhand but if they continued to stay in PTR, help would be sought from local villagers to push them back to Surai range.
When contacted, the divisional forest officer of East Tarai forest division Parag Madhukar Dhakate told TOI that his division had more than 30 elephants but a majority was confined to Kilpura forest range while a few were in Khatema range.
According to Dhakate, the movement of elephants into Surai range was reported after a long interval of about 20 years. “The aerial distance between Kilpura and Mahof may not be less than 25 km and a bit more than 10 km between the Khatema and Mahof. It was strange that the elephants reached PTR after straying from their habitats and traversing such a long distance,” he added. he said if the elephants were from Kilpura, they would have travelled at least 35 km and if they belonged to Khatema range, they would have covered about 18 km to reach PTR.
The field force of Surai range was coordinating with PTR’s staff for the return of the elephants to their own forest area, said Dhakate.