.........ROURKELA: The herd of five elephants continues to create panic in villages of Kuanrmunda range of Rourkela Forest Division (RFD), keeping the forest officials on the tenterhooks.
Sources said on Wednesday, the herd had moved towards Birmitrapur range. But by Thursday evening, it again returned to Harpali Reserve Forest of Kuanrmunda making the panic-stricken villagers apprehensive of raids in the night.
From July 12 to August 12, the herd has claimed three lives in Kuanrmunda after raiding houses while five days back, an elephant chaser was killed by the jumbos.
Rourkela-based Regional Chief Conservator of Forest (RCCF) Lingaraj Otta and Rourkela Divisional Forest Officer Sanjeet Kumar on Thursday visited the vulnerable pockets to take stock of the situation.
Stating that the regions frequented by the elephants are linear hill ranges, the RCCF said they are analysing why the herd is visiting these areas and also the behaviour of the jumbos. He pointed out that a sub-adult female elephant in the herd is the most violent as it has been seen raiding mud houses and attacking humans. As a last resort, the female elephant would be shifted to some safer area.
Otta said prima facie, it appears that ‘handia’ (home-made brew), food grains and jackfruit stored in houses and standing vegetable and other crops are attracting the elephants to the villages and enter into conflict with humans.
He said about 50 members of elephant squads are deployed in the range as another herd of 10 jumbos is present in other forests of Kuanrmunda. Some vulnerable entry points would be secured with solar fencing and the Sundargarh district administration urged to ensure setting up a grid sub-station at Bijubandh village to save vast areas from plunging into darkness during elephant movements, he said.
It is observed that villagers are preventing passages of the elephants from all directions by using firecrackers and other traditional instruments, thereby irritating the animals further.
Moreover, overlapping Reserve and Revenue Forests along with scattered tribal households are major hurdles to successful elephant-proof measures. Panels and batteries of solar street lights have also been stolen by miscreants to reduce visibility.
Sources said after sunset, fear of elephant depredation grips villagers of Harpali, Sialjore, Dalki, Kacharu, Bijubandh, Pasara and Lahanda. About 50 elephants in separate herds are also present in the forests of Banki and Panposh range of the RFD.