Wildlife & Biodiversity

Elephants killed 527 humans in Odisha in 6 years: Wildlife group

Eight dead in last six days

 
By Ashis Senapati
Last Updated: Tuesday 07 April 2020
A herd of elephants crossing the road in Dhenkanal, Odisha. Photo: Ashis Senapati

Wild elephants in Odisha have killed 527 people in the last six years and this year, it may only get worse, statistics by a non-profit have shown.

The 527 people were killed between April 1, 2014 and March 31, 2020. The state has already reported eight human deaths just six days into the current year — 2020-21.

In the year through March 31, 204 human-elephant encounters happened in Odisha in which 115 people were killed and 132 were injured. “These figures could well be one of the highest human casualties ever recorded in a particular year in any state in India.  Last year’s figures are very alarming considering the fact that on an average, the year witnessed approximately one human-elephant encounter every two days and a human got killed every three days,” Biswajit Mohanty, secretary of Wildlife Society of Odisha, said.

Below is a table showing how the human casualties in Odisha have gone up over the years and the big spike last year:  

Odisha human casualties in elephant encounters since April 2014
Year Human-Elephant Encounters Humans Killed Humans Injured
Apr 2014 to Mar 2015 106 84 70
Apr 2015 to Mar 2016 100 79 37
Apr 2016 to Mar 2017 107 72 44
Apr 2017 to  Mar 2018 120 85 54
Apr 2018 to Mar 2019 168 92 105
Apr 2019 to Mar 2020 204 115 132
TOTALS 805 527 442

Angul district recorded the highest number human deaths last year, 22. It also witnessed the single biggest tragedy ever in Odisha of five human deaths within hours on a single day on April 19,2019,

It was followed by Dhenkanal (21), Sundargarh (13), Mayurbhanj (11), Keonjhar (10) and Sambalpur (8).

Large-scale mining and quarrying, industrialisation, destructions of elephant corridors, obstructions to traditional elephant movement paths by railway lines, national highways and irrigation canals, deforestation etc had led to the increasing number of encounters with humans over the years, added Mohanty. 

“Odisha’s forest department has done precious little to contain the rise in conflict. They are clueless about mitigating the conflict. While previous mitigation plans provided by experts more than two decades ago remain on paper; more and more studies are carried out by external consultants,” Mohanty said.

“One private consultant body has been awarded a contract for Rs 3.67 crore to provide a wildlife conflict management plan. The report is yet to be submitted though five years have passed. The alarming casualty figures shows that Odisha’s control over human-elephant conflict is dismal though crores of rupees are being spent on mitigation measures,” alleged Mohanty.

He noted that Odisha had now acquired the dubious reputation of being a state with the highest number of human kills by elephants.

“Assam, which has an elephant population of 5,719, witnessed 86 people killed in 2018-19 and 83 people in 2017-18. During the same period, Karnataka, with an elephant population of 6,049, recorded 13 people killed in 2018-19 and 23 in 2017-18. Odisha, with an elephant population of just 1,976 recorded 92 people killed in 2018-19 and 85 people in 2017-18,” Mohanty said.

Between 2016-17 and 2018-19, 246 elephants had died in Odisha due to various reasons such as accidental electrocution, disease, accidents involving trains and other vehicles, natural and other causes, Bikram Keshari Arukha, Odisha's forest and environment minister stated in the state Assembly on February 17, 2020.

Odisha housed 1,976 elephants according to the 2017 elephant census, including Simlipal forest division (330), Dhenkanal (169), Satakosia (147) and Athagarh (115), the minister said. Of the total 50 forest ranges in the state, 12 don’t have a single elephant.

The minister also stated that elephant conservation projects had been taken up in Similipal National Park and as well as in the Mahanadi and Sambalpur ranges. Steps had been taken to protect and restore 14 elephant corridors in Odisha.

New ponds were being dug in elephant corridors including sanctuaries and national parks and saplings being raised to feed elephants. Coordination meetings were regularly held with officials of state energy department to prevent elephant deaths due to electrocution, according to the minister.

He said railway and road transport authorities had also been sensitised against elephant deaths due to accidents.

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