People in Rasgobindpur and Betnoti ranges under Baripada forest division have been spending sleepless nights for the last few days apprehending that the elephant herd may sneak into their habitations and wreak havoc.
Villagers are keeping a guard by burning fire in front of their houses and backyard to scare away the elephants. The herd has been damaging acres of standing paddy and orchards in two range areas.
DFO Sanjay Kumar Swain said a herd of 45 elephants from neighbouring West Bengal had sneaked into Rasgobindpur range though Badsul forest area as part of their annual sojourn. The elephant herd has already crossed Rasgobindpur range and at present they are roaming in Ashanbani forest under Betnoti range. Another herd of about 20 elephants may have moved towards Raibania forest area under Jaleswar range of Balasore district, the DFO said.
The herd moves into the forest during day time and returns at night. The forest officials are keeping a close watch on their movement. A team of 120 trained staff, including elephant experiment squads and forest guards, have been engaged to drive them away. A couple of hired horses has been deployed as horse excreta keeps the elephants away. The neigh, smell of stool and urine of male horses irritate elephants, Swain said.
Though no human casualty has been reported so far, the herd has damaged standing paddy crops in several acres.
“We have warned the locals not to chase the elephants as they may turn violent if they are irritated by fire crackers and pelting of stones. They have also been asked not to stock any intoxicating substance like rice beer and mahuli,” Swain added.
A 24-hour control room has been opened at Baripada forest divisional office and an Assistant Conservator of Forest has been engaged to monitor the movement of wild elephants and collect information from staff and locals, the DFO said, adding that the movement of the elephants herd is now towards Kuldhia wildlife sanctuary of Balasore district.