BARIPADA: Authorities of Similipal Biosphere Reserve in Mayurbhanj district have decided to engage five well-trained elephants in the core area of the national park to combat poaching and check timber smuggling during the rainy season.
For the first time, the elephants – Mahendra, Sobha, Bhavani, Shivani and Raj Kumar __ will be deployed along with forest personnel for patrolling. Earlier, the forest staff were finding it hard to enter the thickly forested core area during monsoon.
Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR) is the second largest tiger reserve of the country spreading across 2,750 sq km, including the critical tiger habitat (core area) extending over 1,194.75 sq km and buffer area of 1,555.25 sq km. The Biosphere Reserve spreads across 5,569 sq km with Similipal sanctuary at the nucleus. The core and buffer areas have three and 65 villages respectively.
Regional Chief Conservator of Forest (RCCF) and Field Director of STR Anup Nayak said the decision to deploy trained elephants during the rainy season was taken for the first time as the forest staff failed to enter the forest due to the bad state of roads and poor infrastructure during monsoon.
Poachers and timber smugglers take advantage of the absence of forest staff as the biosphere remains closed for tourists during the rainy season. During this period, vehicles are not allowed to enter inside the forest as many temporary bridges get damaged due to rain.
Though forest personnel are engaged in patrolling, they do not go into the core area during the rainy days for safety reasons. Even messages cannot be communicated from the buffer zone to core area due to poor VHF network. Sources said three elephants – Mahendra, Sobha and Bhavani – were brought to Similipal from Karnataka in November, 2001 for the promotion of eco-tourism and protection of wildlife and forests. While Sobha gave birth to a female calf Laxmi in April 2002, Bhavani gave birth to Raj Kumar in October, 2002 and Shivani in December, 2008. Laxmi died due to snake bite in April, 2006.
Deputy Director of STR Bikash Ranjan Dash said of the five trained elephants, three are stationed at Na’ana range and two – Mahendra and Sobha – have been taken to Rasgobindpur range under Baripada forest division to drive away the Jharkhand tusker which has been wreaking havoc in the region.
“These two jumbos will be soon brought to Na’ana range and deployed along with the others. The elephants accompanied by forest staff will patrol in the core area. We hope this would help safeguard the tiger reserve which is suffering from acute staff crunch,” Dash said.