BHUBANESWAR/CUTTACK: The elephant menace continues unabated in Athgarh forest division with around 25 elephants of Chandaka wildlife sanctuary virtually turning the periphery of Athgarh into their habitat.
On Tuesday, panic gripped villagers and commuters, who were travelling on NH 55. The elephant herd suddenly appeared from the nearby agricultural field and blocked the highway. People and motorists were stranded for nearly an hour on the route.
Chief wildlife warden Siddhant Das said the herd has addicted to agricultural fodder and not the forest food. “The elephants can’t be shifted physically. We are only monitoring the situation so that there is minimum damage to crops and there is no loss to human life,” he said.
The elephant trackers couldn’t drive the animals away while they were crossing the NH. “The forest officials advised people not to tease the animal and keep a safe distance. No one has been hurt during the one-hour raid,” forest department sources said.
The forest personnel have also directed drivers to cautiously drive near the elephant crossing zone. “We have deployed a team to ensure that elephants go back to the forest without any disturbance. The animals are venturing out of the forest frequently to eat paddy,” said divisional forest officer (Athagarh) Arun Swain. It is a regular phenomenon on the stretch, he added.
Forest officials said pachyderms stray into human habitation during winter as farmers grow a wide variety of vegetables during this time. The elephant can walk up to 100 km. They can smell the food and proceed in that direction, said a forest officer.