BALASORE: With the temperature hovering around 44 degree Celsius in Northern Odisha, the wildlife in forest areas has started pining for relief. Besides heat, dried up water sources are set to take a heavy toll on wild animals.
With no significant rainfall recorded in the last six months in the vast stretches of forests in Balasore, Keonjhar and Mayurbhanj districts, the water bodies are drying up. Animals like tigers, leopards, elephants and deer besides other mammals and reptiles are the worst affected.
In this zone, there are three big reserve forests - Kuldiha in Balasore, Hadgarh in Keonjhar and Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR) and National Park in Mayurbhanj.
Sources said, of 52 water bodies in Kuldiha, 15 have gone dry while water level in around 65 big water structures, including 32 in core area in STR, has gone down considerably.
The officials of the reserve forests have initiated steps to store water and prevent the animals from moving out of their habitat. Measures have been taken to store water from the perennial sources by constructing ponds and check dams, said a forest official.
But animals from parched areas continue to stray into villages in search of water exposing themselves to poachers. Elephants, who usually feel the scarcity of water during May and June, are frequenting villages in Raruan block of Mayurbhanj district damaging property and mango orchards.
Tigers, on the other hand, get disturbed during the migration of ungulates. As the tiger census is in progress, authorities of STR have taken measures to prevent migration of ungulates so that they do not have to migrate for water and the tiger habitat remains in tact.
Meanwhile, officials of the three reserve forests claimed to have formed teams to keep track of the animals hit by sunstroke and provide immediate care.
Environmentalists fear that the wild animals would suffer badly if the temperature continues to remain above 40 degrees for a long period. Rainfall in a fortnight can bring some respite to the animals, they said. But it appears a bleak prospect with the IMD predicting hot days not relenting soon.
“The situation aggravated this year with summer setting in early forcing wild animals like elephants and bears to sneak into human habitations,” said wildlife enthusiast Deepak Pani.
Balasore DFO Harsabadhan Udgata said, de-siltation of dry water bodies has begun and some large concrete vats have been constructed. “We have also sent a proposal to the Government seeking early release of funds so that all water bodies can be excavated. We are trying to fill the vats through tankers so that the animals can get the water,” he added.
Deputy Director of STR Ajit Kumar Satpathy said apart from the existing water structure, 12 more artificial ponds have been constructed this year. “Besides, we have identified around 600 spots along five rivers originating from Similipal, where structures would be constructed to store water from perennial sources for summer,” he added.