Man-elephant conflict on the rise in state (Bhubaneswar, India)


Ashok Pradhan, Times of India

Date Published

Bhubaneswar: A fierce man-elephant war is inflicting heavy casualties on either side.

Herds of marauding elephants have killed 354 people and injured 161 since 2010-11 despite an ambitious five-year programme since 2012 for the development of 14 elephant corridors in the state. The state government spent Rs 45 crore on giving compensation to people for losses caused by elephants.

The jumbos have damaged 4,650 houses and crops on over 64,000 acres of land. Thirty-two domestic animals were killed in elephant attacks, forest and environment minister Bikram Keshari Arukha told the assembly, in a written reply, on Tuesday. The jumbos killed 70 people in Dhenkanal forest division followed by 44 in Keonjhar.

Over the past six years (till December 2 this year), 402 elephants died in the state, including 44 in 2015-16 alone. At least 252 of these deaths can be directly attributed to man-made circumstances. Poachers killed 35, using sharp edged weapons, poisoned 15 and eliminated 38 by deliberate electrocution. Twenty-six jumbos died of accidental electrocution, 37 due to accidents inside the forests, 14 in train mishaps and two in road accidents. The government could not find out the reason behind 85 deaths, most of which can be attributed to poaching.

While 61 deaths were due to natural reasons, 89 succumbed to diseases, the minister’s written reply reveals.

To check poaching, the minister said, the government had deployed anti-poaching squads in sensitive areas. Anti-depredation squads and elephant trackers have been working to observe their movements and prevent them from entering human habitations. Solar fencing, trenches and boundary walls have been erected around elephant habitats so that they don’t venture out, the minister said.

Power infrastructure in the elephant habitats were overhauled by replacing the sagging livewires so that there was no accidental electrocution, he said.

Arukha said that to contain the affected people’s anger towards the animals, the government has been providing compensation to them. Over the past five years, the government has provided around Rs 46 crore.

According to the latest Census (2015), there are a total of 1,954 elephants in the state. They include 341 males, 1,096 female, 27 of unknown genders and 490 calves. The Angul circle with 643 jumbos has the highest concentration of the big mammals. Others include Baripada (598), Rourkela (254), Berhampur (166), Bhawanipatna (91), Bhubaneswar (56), Sambalpur (137) and Koraput (9).

The total jumbo population in the state is fast falling over the years. The Elephant Census 2012 shows their population in the state stood at 1,930 – including 334 tuskers, 1,087 females, 463 calves and 46 of unknown sex.