Wildlife & Biodiversity

On same day, 3 elephants die in 2 Odisha districts

The development has raised concerns among forest officials and animal conservationists  

By Ashis Senapati
Published: Monday 25 October 2021

Three elephants died on October 23, 2021 in Angul and Dhenkanal districts in Odisha, according to a forest office. One of them was electrocuted by live wire set by poachers around a forest, 

The development has baffled forest officials and environmentalists alike.

A 15-year-old tusker died after coming in contact with a live wire laid by poachers at Kamarei forest under Kaniha forest range in Angul district, the officer said. 

“We have arrested five persons on the charge of laying live wires in the forest,” said Mihir Patnaik, assistant conservator of forest of Angul forest division. It was the eighth jumbo to die of electrocution in the last ten months in the state, he added.  

The carcass of another 25-year-old male elephant was found in Jamarahata forest under  Deogarh forest division of Angul district on the same day.  It is suspected it died of poisoning. 

Two polythene bags were  found in its stomach and there was a wound on the tusker’s head, which led to the suspicion that the animal was killed by poison arrows, said Khyama Sarangi, divisional forest officer of Deogarh forest division. 

This is the second elephant to die of poisoning in Odisha within a month, he added. An adult male elephant aged around 20 was poisoned to death in Angul forest division on September 27, 2021.

A seven-year-old ailing elephant died while undergoing treatment at Lahada reserve forest under Sarangi range in Dhenkanal district on October 23. The veterinary officials were treating the animal as it was limping. 

Preliminary report suggested that the pachyderm died of septicemia as it was weak and debilitated, said  Rashmiranjan Swain, assistant conservator of forest, Dhenkanal forest division. 

In February 2021, six elephants died of haemorrhagic septicaemia in Karlapat Wildlife Sanctuary in Odisha's Kalahandi district.

The death of three tuskers on a single day emerged as a cause for concern among forest officials and animal conservationists.

Jayakrushna  Panigrahi, secretary of Odisha Environmental Society, said: 

Electric wire trap poaching is a major concern and many elephants have been killed in Sambalpur, Dhenkanal, Angul, Cuttack and Keonjhar districts due to this dangerous threat. Inadequate patrolling and lack of monitoring has led to this situation. Many forest areas have naked overhead 11KV and 33 KV power lines which should be insulated to prevent hooking by poachers

Elephants often raid agricultural fields for food. To protect their crops, farmers put up electric fences or poison the animals, he added. 

A total of 282 elephants have died in Odisha since 2018 through August 31, 2021, according to Forest, Environment and Climate Change Minister Bikram Keshari Arukha in the Odisha Assembly on September 7, 2021.

As many as 2,044 elephants were counted in Odisha in the 1979 elephant census. The number dwindled to 1,930 in the 2012 Census and 1,954 in the 2015 census. The last elephant survey done in 2017 indicated there were 1,976 elephants in the eastern state. 

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