Exposing loopholes in the elephant conservation programmes introduced by the forest department, four jumbos have perished prematurely under the territorial jurisdictions of Cuttack and Athagarh forest divisions over the last one week.
Forest department officials have done precious little to find out the causes behind the deaths of the elephants and to take action against people behind such incidents, alleged wildlife activists.
Two cow elephants—one 20 years old and another 4 years old—were electrocuted near Pahilabara village on the border of Cuttack and Athagarh forest divisions March 20. Sources said around 30 jumbos from Chandaka sanctuary had strayed into Pahilabara and areas nearby a few days ago.
The villagers had raised the issue with the forest department and sought its intervention to chase away the pachyderms. Some villagers had laid live electric wires around their crop fields to protect them from the jumbos after forest department turned a blind eye to the crisis, sources said.
Forest department officials Friday recovered the decomposed carcass of a tusker in Baniabandh reserve forest under Khuntini range of Athagarh forest division. According to sources, a few ivory smugglers had killed the bull elephant to collect its tusks. In another incident, an elephant calf died of some health complications in Debabhumi reserve forest near Narasinghpur Thursday.
Locals and wildlife lovers, meanwhile, blamed the callous attitude of the forest department officials for the frequent death of jumbos in Cuttack and Athagarh forest divisions.
“Forest department officials are quite aware that many low-lying high-powered electric wires pass through the crop fields of Pahilabara and its neighbouring villages. However, they are yet to take any steps to protect the jumbos from these electric wires,” said Arjun Swain, a farmer of Kayalapada.
Echoing similar sentiments, wildlife expert Bibhuprasad Jena said, “The forest department had introduced several measures, including designated corridors, provision of drinking water and extensive night patrolling, to protect the jumbos. But faulty implementation has made all these measures ineffective.”
Cuttack divisional forest officer Sudarshan Behera said night patrolling near forests has been tightened and that steps are being taken to arrest the accused in the cases of electrocution of elephants.
The divisional forest officer of Athagarh said the authorities of the electricity department have been consulted for raising the heights of the electric wires in Khuntuni area.