Elephant traffic

By Ashutosh Mishra
Published: Sunday 15 February 2009

Orissa plans to manage them

WITH wildlife habitat getting fragmented, elephants are more frequently straying into urban areas and causing mayhem. On January 1, a herd of elephants entered the Berhampur University campus and went on a rampage near campus staff quarters. The son of a staff member was injured. A few days before that a tusker had strayed into Jagannath Vihar, a residential colony in Bhubaneswar, and overturned a Tata Sumo vehicle. Its occupants got away lightly with minor bruises.

People killed by elephants in Orissa
2005-2006 42
2006-2007 44
2007-2008 62
Source Forest and Environment Department of Orissa
These elephants were from Chandaka sanctuary on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar and about 200 kilometres from Berhampur University in Ganjam district. Half the sanctuary's population of 60 elephants has migrated to adjoining forest areas. The wildlife department of Orissa has now come out with an elephant management plan to prevent such incidents. Elephant migration routes will be mapped, their movement corridors identified and habitat improved.

Elephants require a large area for movement and cover 80 km to 120 km daily in search of food. "Unfortunately our forests are getting fragmented and obstruct movement of elephants," said S S Srivastava, chief conservator of forests in Orissa. He said that the Rs 56.60 crore plan was cleared in principle on December 30, 2008.

The money will be used for conservation of forests and creation of water bodies. Sounding advance alerts in areas likely to be targeted by jumbos are also part of the plan that will get implemented over five years.

Environmentalists are sceptical about the success of the plan. Biswajit Mohanty, secretary of Wildlife Society of Orissa, said the plan is a "waste of public money". He said the key element of the plan should be to check uncontrolled development, including mining and industrialization, in the vicinity of sanctuaries. Two elephant corridors from Chandaka towards Athgarh and Barunei have been eroded, said Mohanty. But then industrialization needs have to be kept in mind by the government, said a wildlife conservation official.

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