Wildlife & Biodiversity

‘Rogue elephant’ kills four in Odisha

Human-elephant conflict usually goes up during summer

By Ashis Senapati
Published: Wednesday 21 April 2021
Photo: Wikipedia

Four persons were trampled by an elephant in Odisha’s Bargarh and Balangir districts April 21, 2021.

The elephant first killed Mal Seth (50), Biranchi Kumbhar (60) and Shiva (70) in Nathapali village within Padmapur forest range when they were going to a pond near the village early morning. It then killed a farmer, Biranchi Sahoo (50), in the neighbouring Darapali village. 

“We have decided to tranquilise the rogue elephant. The forest department will provide Rs 4 lakh in compensation to the family of each victim after inquiry,” said Samir Ranjan Satapathy, divisional forest officer (DFO), Balangir forest division.

Encounters with elephants go up during summer as the animals enter human habitation to feed on fruits which become their main diet in the absence of enough fodder and water in the forests. During April, May and June, Odisha witnesses a spurt in human casualties as people and elephants come face to face frequently during harvesting of non-timber forest products (NTFP) like mahua, mango, jackfruit, wood apple (kaitha), cashew and kendu leaves.

Elephants stay close to the orchards and fruiting trees and attack people who venture close, During summer, elephants also raid villages for stored food grains and country liquor, said L A K Singh, a former wildlife researcher of Odisha forest department. 

Around 539 persons were killed and 442 were injured between April 2017 and April, 2021. Of these, 124 deaths and 103 injuries were recorded during the April-June period in the five years.

The alarming casualty figures show Odisha’s control over human-elephant conflict is dismal though crores of rupees are being spent on mitigation measures, said Biswajit Mohanty, secretary of Wildlife Society of Orissa (WSO). 

Such fatal encounters can lead to panic among villagers and animosity towards elephants. Irate crowds may also react violently to the elephants as well as department staff and resort to public agitation. Very often the breadwinner is lost leading to unimaginable economic distress for the families, added Mohanty.

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