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14 elephants died in Odisha during COVID-19 lockdown: Forest department

While only two elephants died naturally, the state's Gajabandhu scheme to counter poachers was limited only to three forest divisions.

Published: 19th June 2020 08:52 AM  |   Last Updated: 19th June 2020 08:52 AM   |  A+A-

Elephant

For representational purposes (Photo | EPS)

Express News Service

BHUBANESWAR: In last two-and-half months of lockdown, at least 14 elephants died in Odisha. The deaths are attributed to poaching, electrocution and other unknown reasons. The last four deaths, though, are clearly instances of poaching.

According to Forest and Environment department, the deaths have been reported from 10 forest and wildlife divisions since March 24. But only two of the 14 deaths are natural. The Department has not yet received reports from DFOs about the cause of deaths of six cases.

Four elephants died in Keonjhar division, while two perished in Angul. Other divisions - Keonjhar (WL), Athagarh, Subarnapur, Bamra (WL), Khurda, Balasore, Sundargarh and Boudh - reported one death each. Among the natural deaths, one was reported from Angul and the other in Keonjhar.At least four elephants were killed due to poaching and electrocution in June.

Carcass of a three-year-old male elephant, with bullet injury mark on body, was found in the Mundeswara forest under Madhapur forest range of Boudh district on June 17.

The incident happened just three days after two elephants were found electrocuted by poachers in the Joda section of Champua range in Keonjhar district on June 14. The tusks of the male elephant was missing.

An elephant calf also died under similar circumstances at Rutukepedi forest under Kuanrmunda range of Sundargarh district on June 12. The calf was reportedly killed by the poachers who had laid a trap to capture a wild boar.

At least three forest staff, including a ranger, have been suspended in these incidents. The poachers, however, are still at large. Despite the frequent animal deaths, there has been very poor field level patrolling or even enforcement against poachers.

The Forest department had rolled out Gajabandhu scheme last year to track elephant movement to minimise human-elephant conflict and improve intelligence networking to counter poachers and individuals who try to harm the jumbos to protect their own crop fields. But the scheme was implemented on a pilot basis in Athagarh, Dhenkanal and Angul but is yet to be extended to other forest divisions irrespective of the fact that Keonjhar and Keonjhar wildlife division reported five elephant deaths within the last one-and-half months.

The Khurda forest division placed a proposal for implementation of the scheme only two weeks back.  PCCF (Wildlife) HS Upadhyay, however, said the pilot scheme has been successful and will be implemented in other divisions from this year to reduce human-elephant conflict and reduce elephant deaths.



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