With as many as 393 elephants having been killed in Orissa in the last five years, the state seems seems to have become a graveyard for the animals.
According to sources in the state government, most of the elephants died because of poaching, electrocution, train accidents or other human-related activities.
In a written reply to BJD member Amar Prasad Satpathy in the Orissa Assembly, state forest and environment minister Bikram Keshari Arukh admitted on Tuesday that the elephant population in the state was disturbed because of forest fire, increase in urbanisation, expansion of industrial activities and mining operations, population growth and encroachment of forest lands.
According to wildlife expert Biswajit Mohanty, elephants are dying in large numbers because the state government is not acting in right earnest to protect them.
“There has been no notification of elephant corridors for four years due to the powerful mining lobby. A mine that belongs to the Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) at Kiriburu was cleared a few years ago though it was near the Karo-Karampadar elephant corridor. Besides, the withdrawal of two proposed elephant reserves, Baitarani and South Orissa, has resulted in massive conflicts all over the state and the arbitrary interpretation of rules. Man-made developmental threats for elephants like railway lines, more number of trains, lack of crossing paths on railway lines, no control of traffic on main highways where elephants cross, open wells in forest areas in which elephants fall are all major reasons for the present state of affairs,” Mr Mohanty said.
The lack of prosecutions, the lack of monitoring of elephant poachers who are out on bail, the loss of food-base in forest areas, the loss of habitat due to forest fires and encroachment in dense forest areas also contribute to the death of large numbers of elephants, he added.
Forest and environment minister Bikram Keshari Arukh said steps had been taken to check elephants deaths by human-related causes.
“The state government has formed anti-poaching and anti-smuggling squads in sensitive areas. Similarly, to avoid man-animal conflicts, anti-depredation squads and elephant tracker teams have been pressed into service,” the minister said.