If the State’s jumbo population has seen a jump by 44 from 1886 to 1930, that of Sambalpur and Mayurbhanj present a worrying situation. Rampant poaching in the forests of Mayurbhanj district, tussle for space and fodder besides sagging electric wires, particularly, in Sambalpur district, have the wildlife activists and forest officials worried.
The 2012 census estimated that the jumbo population in the four forest ranges in Mayurbhanj district has come down from 477 to 456. There were 47 jumbos in Rairangpur range followed by 23 in Karanjia, 52 in Baripada and 334 in Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR).
The population includes 60 males, 273 females, one unknown sex and 122 calves. Official sources said during the period while six pachyderms have died naturally, poachers killed 22.
The 2012 census report states that Karanjia range has lost the highest number of nine elephants in the last two years, Baripada lost seven and STR four. Raising doubts over the authenticity of the census report, wildlife activist Vanoo Mitra Acharya questioned when over 45 elephants have been killed by the poachers in the period, how could the figure be 456?
“Though the department admits that 22 jumbos have been killed, data available with us says over 45 elephants, including 12 tuskers, were either poisoned to death or shot dead,” he said.
Acharya, who had exposed two mass killings of jumbos inside STR this year, wondered why not a single poacher has been arrested.
STR Deputy Director Bikash Ranjan Das though admitted that the elephant population has decreased in the region, it was not alarming. “Besides poaching, elephants from the forests migrate to the nearby corridors to Kuldiha in Balasore and Hadagarh in Keonjhar. Both the areas have recorded more elephants than the previous census. So we suspect the elephants from Mayurbhanj might have migrated,” he added.
SAMBALPUR: In Sambalpur Circle the population has dwindled from 249 to 229. Though the Circle Consolidated Report on Elephant Census of Sambalpur had put the figure at 243, Bamra Wildlife reported presence of 190 elephants, Sambalpur (South) and Hirakud Wildlife registered 16 elephants each, Bargarh division recorded 15 elephants, Rairakhol six while it was nil in Sambalpur (North).
As per the 2010 census, there were 249 elephants in Sambalpur Circle with the highest of 152 in Bamra Wildlife. The dip in the population is being attributed to frequent tussle for space and fodder due to destruction of natural habitats through rapid industrialisation and massive deforestation besides hunting for tusks and sagging high tension electric wires. Nearly 44 elephants have died between 2001 and 2011 in Sambalpur Circle comprising the six divisions.
Except Bargarh, Hirakud and Sambalpur (South) wildlife divisions, other areas are used by pachyderms for their movement from Mahanadi elephant reserve to Keonjhar and Jharkhand to the north of Odisha.
Of the total deaths reported in the last 10 years, maximum 21 elephants died due to electrocution with high tension electric lines hanging low against the specified 14 metres from the ground.
No visible action has yet been taken against Wesco and if the situation does not change, it is not long when the number of elephants will reduce further.