BARIPADA: Panic has gripped residents of several villages in Mayurbhanj district as a herd of 100 elephants including 20 calves continue to raze property and crops since the last 15 days.Many villages, particularly those within Betnoti and Rasgobindpur ranges under Baripada Forest Division are spending sleepless nights after the jumbos returned to the area from Dalma forest in the neighbouring Jharkhand.
Since the last over one and half month, the herd has been creating havoc in the two districts of Balasore and Mayurbhanj. In previous years, elephants of Jharkhand sneaked into Mayurbhanj and Nilagiri of Balasore during the harvesting season to feast on the ripened paddy crops. The jumbos damaged standing paddy crops and houses but they hardly stayed for a week.
However this year, at least three herds have sneaked into the two districts and are razing vast tracts of standing paddy crops for a much longer period. Sources said residents of several villages under Nilagiri as well as Betnoti and Rasgobindpur could not harvest paddy as the elephants damaged the crops.
On Sunday last, locals had staged a blockade on Manida-Baisinga road protesting the damage of crops and as many as eight houses by the elephants. The agitators accused the Forest department of failing to thwart off the jumbo threat despite spending crores of rupees in this reagrd. Since the last few days days, the elephant herd has damaged paddy crops and eight houses in Badamabapur, Kuchabania, Badhi, Karartpata and Bhaigasahi under Rasgobindapur block. The locals have lost their sleep as the elephants continue to terrorise on a daily basis.
On last Friday, the jumbos had strayed into Panishola village and damaged houses of Sukadev Mohant, Birendra Ram, Ratnakar Mohant, Ruiha Mohant, Luda Ram, Malati Ram and Shanka Hansda besides razing two shops in Badampur area.
Contacted, Baripada Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Swayam Mallik said the movement of the elephants has been delayed as there are several calves in the herd. While an elephant gave birth to a calf at Gopalpur in Balasore, two calves were born in Betnoti range. “ A minimum two to three days are required for a calf to become strong enough to walk. During this period, the mother elephant waits and keep a watch over her calf,” Mallik informed.
The DFO further said forest and police personnel have been put on alert round the clock. The Electricity department has also been asked to disconnect power supply in the elephant corridors after evening, he added.