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An angry young tusker killed a man and chased another till he broke a leg in Ranchi city early on Wednesday, underscoring how blurred lines between forests and towns in Jharkhand can escalate human-wildlife conflict.
The jumbo’s plan to raid the capital’s educational, residential and commercial hubs was foiled by a quick response forest team, which managed to drive him to the safety of Biodiversity Park in Garkhatanga on Ring Road, 20km away, after four hours of panic and excitement. He was last seen ambling towards Bundu around 4pm.
Chief minister Raghubar Das, on his part, announced immediate compensation for the family of the deceased.
The unusual visitor, according to Ranchi DFO Rajiv Lochan Bakshi, was aged between 35 and 40 years, vigorously youthful considering that the Asian elephant can live up to 70-80 years in the wild. It is still a matter of conjecture how the tusker entered the city around 4am, but Bakshi suspects he got separated from his herd in the jungles bordering Khunti.
“The 50km probable route he took to Niwaranpur, a stone’s throw from the Main Road overbridge in the heart of the capital, was via Dassam Falls in Khunti, Bundu, Biodiversity Park, Airport Road, Birsa Chowk, Hatia railway tracks and Argora station,” said the DFO.
Bakshi maintained that the rumble of trains plying through Hatia and Argora unsettled the animal and turned him violent. Baldeo Indwar (40), a resident of Naya Basti near Argora station, was trampled to death around 5am. Chamu Munda, another local resident, suffered a left leg fracture after the tusker chased him so hard that he fell down on the rugged road.
“My husband had gone out to work in the field nearby around 5am. We suddenly heard him scream and later found him dead. Who knew a rogue elephant was camping in the undergrowth. The animal also damaged houses in our area,” said Indwar’s widow Simi Devi, waiting at Ranchi Sadar Hospital for his death certificate.
“The animal was dangerously close to Delhi Public School and JVM-Shyamali, both near Argora station. Fortunately, classes hadn’t begun and the campuses were empty,” said another local resident.
The havoc would have been greater had not foresters managed to drive the tusker away while the animal was trying to enter the HEC Township.
“The area is address to major government establishments and residential blocks. The situation was threatening to spin out of control. Around 8am, the animal was driven back to the Biodiversity Park, where he was anchored till late afternoon. He has now moved back to Bundu. We are keeping tabs on him,” DFO Bakshi said.
Assistant conservator of forests Parvesh Agarwal said they adopted the traditional procedure of chasing the elephant away. “We had a tranquilliser gun ready, but tranquillising is always the last option. We used crackers and drums to drive him to safety. It was early morning and traffic was less, which eased our operation,” he added.
According to compensation rules, Rs 2.5 lakh will be given to Indwar’s family. Bakshi said Rs 25,000 had already been released and the rest would be paid soon. “The injured person is being treated at a private clinic in Kadru. We will find out the nature of his injury and pay his treatment bills.”
The tusker trouble in the capital on Wednesday has once again exposed how shrinking forests and encroachment of wildlife corridors is threatening to aggravate the man-animal conflict.
Only 24 hours ago, a marauding herd had destroyed houses in Tupudana, on the city’s outskirts. Two years ago, an elephant had sneaked into the Dipatoli Cantonment. Reports of elephants raiding farms and causing human casualties pour in daily from across the state while a manpower- and resource-starved forest department finds it difficult to control the menace.
A senior forester dubbed Wednesday’s incident an eye-opener for the government.
“Elephants on the outskirts of the capital are common now. In the past two years, at least three instances have been recorded. Conflicts will increase given the way we are mapping protected forest areas for mines and industries. Jharkhand has also started issuing pattas (land deeds) to villagers under the Forest Rights Act. Many non-forest dwellers are claiming land in forests and managing sanctions too. This is the biggest threat,” he warned.