BARIPADA: Forest officials are facing a tough task to drive away the herd of elephants which has now broken up into small groups and is wreaking havoc in paddy fields of both Mayurbhanj and Balasore districts.The elephants are coming out from the deep forests at night and damaging standing crops. While the panic-stricken locals are staying indoors, tribal families are burning dry wood and staying awake during the night in fear of the elephants.
Betnoti Ranger Saroj Kumar Mohanty said a total of 93 wild elephants from neighbouring West Bengal had sneaked into Mayurbhanj a couple of weeks back by the forest routes of Rasgobindpur and Deuli ranges. Now, at least five elephants are staying put in Khirpada forest on the rear side of Boisinga area while the rest have already crossed Mayurbhanj and reached Nilagiri forest.
Mohanty further said on their way to Nilagiri, the jumbos have damaged hectares of standing paddy crops, banana orchards and vegetables patches in several villages along the banks of Budhabalanga river. Farmers near the forest areas of Asanbai, Saria, Dalki, Kainphulia, Patalipur, Nadpur, Phuljhari, Gardgadia and Badamshal have been affected by the elephants, he added.
Nilagiri Ranger Debu Patra said the elephants in groups have already reached Gopalpur area of Balasore district, which is close to Nilagiri Wildlife Sanctuary, after creating havoc in Betnoti range on Tuesday night.Sources said people from far off places are making a rush to see the elephants which is creating problems in driving away the pachyderms from the paddy fields.
On the other hand, farmers have accused officials of Forest and Electricity departments of neglect. The officials have failed to dig trenches to prevent entry of elephants into villages. Moreover, the locals are deprived of electricity for long hours as the department concerned has cut down the supply, they said.
Forest official sources said compensation to farmers affected by the jumbos will be provided after assessment.