Jumbo herds cause panic in Baripada

Farmers have expressed frustration, citing a decade-long struggle to turn profits due to frequent elephant raids on their crops during both rabi and kharif seasons.
A herd near a pond in Gaon Amarda
A herd near a pond in Gaon Amarda

BARIPADA : Forest officials in the Baripada territorial division of Mayurbhanj district are grappling with the challenge of managing and deploying manpower to control the movement of two herds of elephants. A herd of 64 elephants from the neighbouring Jharkhand, along with another herd of 21 elephants from Similipal National Park in Mayurbhanj district, have been wreaking havoc in the Rasgovindpur range for several days.

The first herd, comprising 64 elephants from Dalma forest in Jharkhand, entered the range on March 26, crossing the Odisha-West Bengal border through a shortcut route. Simultaneously, the second herd of 21 elephants from Similipal National Park ventured into the same range, creating disturbances for residents of Rasgovindpur, Betnoti, Baripada, and Deuli ranges within the Baripada division, as well as the Jaleswar range in Balasore district.

While the elephants roam within the Gaon Amarda reserve forest during the day, they venture into paddy fields at night, damaging standing crops cultivated during the rabi season. This has caused losses for farmers, who were on the verge of harvesting ripe paddy. Local residents, particularly those in Rasgovindpur, Betnoti, Baripada, Deuli, and Jaleswar, are living in fear of the elephants, with many experiencing sleepless nights.

Farmers have expressed frustration, citing a decade-long struggle to turn profits due to frequent elephant raids on their crops during both rabi and kharif seasons. “Despite pleas from residents, forest authorities, district administrations, and the state government are yet to implement permanent measures to prevent the frequent entry of elephants into these ranges, leaving us vulnerable to property damage,” said Lalmohan Mohanta a resident of Gaon Amarda.

Ghanashyam Singh, range officer of Rasgovindpur range, said since the elephant herds’ arrival, at least two houses have been damaged, along with extensive destruction of ripe paddy fields. “Efforts to mitigate the situation include the deployment of manpower, comprising four teams of forest personnel from Udala, Baripada, Betnoti, and Deuli ranges, along with 40 forest guards, foresters, elephant squads, and 135 Gaja Sathis from the Rasgovindpur range,” he added.

These teams are stationed at various entry points to the Gaon Amarda reserve forest and nearby areas to monitor the movement of the elephant herds. Despite these efforts, the elephant herds show no inclination to return to their natural habitat and continue to pose a threat to nearby settlements, the range officer further informed. In response, the power supply department has cut off electricity in affected areas, as directed by the Forest department, to prevent any untoward incidents.

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