BARIPADA: Elephant fear has doubled for residents of villages near Raibania reserve forest within Jaleswar and Rashgobindpur ranges as the herd of 18 jumbos from Jharkhand, which has been wreaking havoc in the area since the last couple of days, has split into two groups. Jaleswar ranger Saroj Kumar Mohanty said while one group consisting of 14 elephants is roaming in Ambatumba forest, the other four-member group is holed up in Dhanghera forest near West Bengal border.
Sources said the elephant herd from Dalma forest in Jharkhand sneaked into Raibania more than a month back and have stayed put in the area. The jumbos, which include tuskers, have damaged houses in search of rice and stocked paddy and destroyed crops and orchards of villagers. The depredation by elephants has taken a toll on the livelihood of villagers of Sukhajodi, Luhapada, Kalojodi, Bhadua, Janhiplulia, Kendragadia, Taradigha, Dharampur, Chakuapada and many others villages in the bordering areas of Balasore and Mayurbhanj districts.
The jumbos are remaining inside forests in the daytime and sneaking into human habitation as evening sets in. The villagers are living in constant fear and spending their nights atop rooftops. Usually, elephants from Jharkhand sneak into Nilagiri forest in Balasore through Mayurbhanj during paddy harvesting time and return on the same route after a couple of days. However, since the last few years, the jumbos are staying back in Odisha for months together, taking a toll on both property and human lives.
Mohanty said, “We are facing difficulties in driving out the elephants due to interference from villagers of Jharabandh and Rajaband in West Bengal.” As many as six teams of forest officials have been engaged to keep a close watch on the movement of the jumbos, he said.
Villagers have been advised not to tease the elephants and refrain from stocking Mahua flowers at home. Forest department has sought help from electricity officials to disconnect the power supply to vulnerable areas during the nighttime. Baripada DFO Swayam Mallick said officials of Rashgobindpur range are monitoring the situation round the clock and keeping the headquarters updated on the movement of elephants.