Tuskers at risk (Odisha, India)


SNS Bhubaneswar, The Statesman

Date Published

In the last 11 months, 50 elephants (official figures) have died in Odisha, of which 29 cases were found to be ‘unnatural deaths’ said members of the Gajah Bandhu (Elephant Family) who held a meeting in collaboration with the Wildlife Society of Orissa (WSO) and the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) here on Friday.

“Gajah Bandhu” is a network of wildlife volunteers, activists, VSS leaders, honorary wildlife warden. It focuses on problems and threats to elephants and shares intelligence on poaching and ivory smuggling with concerned forest and wild life authorities.

Despite allocation of crores of rupees for staff and vehicles for elephant protection there has been no visible improvement in safety for elephants.

Fourteen elephants have been killed by poachers in the last 11 months, but not a single culprit has been apprehended till now due to lack of effective intelligence network, decried the activists.

The government patted themselves during the wildlife week in October,2015 claiming that they have drastically reduced electrocution deaths, but within just 55 days after that, 10 elephants were electrocuted to death, 5 by sagging electric lines and 5 by live wire traps set by poachers, alleged the activists.

This is evident from the fact that in 12 of the 50 cases the bodies were in highly decomposed state indicating that patrolling is lax and cases are not revealed until exposed by media. Members decided to volunteer to identify such dangerous open wells inform the local forest officials.

The Human Elephant conflict caused by elephant raids on crops and houses was discussed in detailed and it was found that the Compassionate Payment system for loss of crop or life was hopelessly inadequate and the process of payment was extremely unfriendly with ambiguous guidelines.

Despite several letters to the forest minister since the last one year, the government has not issued guidelines / clarifications. Though 14 elephants corridors have been identified five years ago , they were not notified so far.

They alleged that the powerful mining lobby was preventing the legal notification of these elephant corridors which had been demarcated by the forest department.

The Gajah Bandhu demanded all 14 identified elephant corridors should be immediately notified by the state government under the Environment (Protection) Act,1986 as sensitive ecological zones (ESZ) to give them legal protection.

No post mortem of a dead elephant should be done without presence of at leat two independent observers who should be the honorary wildlife warden and a local wildlife volunteer/ activist.

Cases should be booked against Executive Engineer/ Managing Director of electricity distribution companies for allowing sagging lines to kill elephants.