Elephant menace has returned from adjacent Jharkhand forests to the border villages of Sundargarh district. A woman was trampled to death and several houses damaged on Thursday night at Tetrahatima village of Nuagaon block in Sundargarh district. The herd of 17 elephants till Friday was holed up at the Patipahar reserve forest (RF) at a stone’s throw distance from Tetrahatim under Rourkela forest division.
Birmitrapur forest range officer Johana Oram said the herd raided the village around midnight and laid siege to the house of the widow victim Hiramani Badaik (40). Terrified Hiramani tried to flee from the backdoor only to be killed, he said. At least eight houses were partially damaged and one person was injured while running helter-skelter. Rourkela Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Sanjeet Kumar said the herd crossed over to Sundargarh side of the border on July 22 and were roaming in two groups before uniting on Thursday. He claimed it is a new herd and the elephants were last seen inside the Patipahar RF.
Sources said the human casualties under the Rourkela forest division rose to four in the past seven months while damage to houses at Kuanrmunda, Bisra and Nuagaon blocks are a common phenomenon. The DFO informed till now around 70 elephants are still present at border forest locations of the division, adding the focus is to keep the animals at safe distance.
Recently, a herd of 11 elephants on reaching the heart of the Rourkela city gave trying moments to the district administration for 20 hours before being driven away to Bisra forest. Forest officials are cautious to protect the city. The DFO said plans are afoot to deploy two ‘wildlife anti-depredation squads’ for the city along with additional deployment of four elephant tracking squads at the vulnerable Kuanrmunda, Bisra and Birmitrapur forest ranges.
The elephants with migratory behaviour are frequently straying from Jharkhand forests and are now habituated to raid tribal households to feast on stored foodgrains and country-liquor.