With industrialisation and mining activities making a dent into elephant corridors in the region, the herds have found a safe abode at Debrigarh Wildlife Sanctuary in Baraphad Hill Range, on the periphery of Hirakud Dam Reservoir (HDR).
However, the death of two elephants after they came in contact with live wire laid to trap wild boars near Chal village in Ambhabhona block of Bargarh district brings into focus the need to sensitise the villagers on protection of wildlife.
Dwindling habitat had elephants stray into villages with reports of electrocution causing concern.
Reports said at least 26 elephants, including a tusker and six calves, have trooped into the Sanctuary area. Their presence has enthused wildlife lovers. However, the district reported 19 jumbo deaths in the last five years.
Barely 30 km from Sambalpur, the hill range is spread over 777 square km and connects Chhattisgarh on one side and Sundargarh district on the other. With water in abundance as two thirds of the boundary of the Sanctuary abutting the HDR, the Elephants have found it a safe haven.
As per the report of the Hirakud Wildlife Division, two elephants were spotted in 2007, followed by four the following year while 18 had sneaked into the area in 2010 with nine spotted in the Sanctuary, rich in fauna and flora, last year.
Locals revealed that the elephants are moving in from Hemgir reserve forest in Sundargarh. The herds had crossed over during summer when water level in the reservoir was low and since then made Debrigarh their home. Coal mining and movement of heavy vehicles could have forced the elephants out of their habitat, they added.
The DFO, Hirakud Wildlife Division, Manoj V Nayyar, said Debrigarh is an ideal habitat for elephants with abundant water and bamboo plantation. But once the herds move out to Dechaun reserve forest in Bargarh district, they face threat. Special squads have been formed to keep a strict vigil on their movement.