BHUBANESWAR:The first ever synchronised elephant census in eastern India has shown that a significant chunk of the jumbos continues to live outside protected areas (PAs) of Odisha despite huge investment made to improve their habitats and corridors.While elephant population in Odisha registered a marginal rise of 22 over the last two years, from 1954 in 2015 to 1976 this year, the enumeration says that outside the Elephant Reserves (ERs) and sanctuaries, elephant number is 361.
This means that about 18 per cent of jumbos are living outside PAs of the State. Majority of the elephants living outside the PAs are female (193).During the 2105 census, the number of elephants outside the protected areas was 402, about 20 per cent.The census reveals that bulk of the elephants live in the three Elephant Reserves (ERs) of the State - Mayurbhanj, Mahanadi and Sambalpur - where their population is 1,536 accounting for 77.7 pc.
There are seven wildlife sanctuaries in three ERs. In another five sanctuaries, there are 79 elephants.
The census results were announced by Forest and Environment Minister Bijayshree Routray here on Monday. The census was held across four elephant-holding States of eastern India including Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal apart from Odisha in May.
The jumbo population was 635 in Similipal ER, 694 in Mahanadi and 207 in Sambalpur. Similipal Core Division continues to hold the highest number of 330 elephants followed by 169 in Dhenkanal, which remains the worst man-elephant conflict zone in the State.
Routray said, as compared to 2015, male elephant number has gone up by three in the State whereas the female number fell by four. The number of young elephants also recorded a rise by 12 with the total increase in head count standing at 22.
Out of 43 divisions which participated in the census, 37 recorded elephants while there was no jumbo found in six which included Khariar, Chilika, City Forest Division, Koraput, Jharsuguda and Bargarh.
If compared with 2015, the number of elephants in Mayurbhanj ER has shown a marginal drop from 649 to 635 this year. This may be because of the migratory nature of the animals which are known to be long rangers.
As per the data available with the Forest Department for the last five years, 311 elephants died in the State. Of them, 19 were poached while electrocution - both deliberate and accidental - claimed 34 lives. As many as 99 elephants died of either anthrax or other diseases. This year, the synchronised census was conducted to eliminate duplication of estimation.
The raw data was sent to Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru which made the final report and submitted it to Project Elephant.