Wildlife & Biodiversity

Tusker dies after being allegedly poisoned by villagers in Angul

Conservationists blame inadequate patrolling by forest officials and a lack of monitoring for the poisoning of a tusker in Odisha

By Ashis Senapati
Published: Wednesday 29 September 2021

The dead tusker in Angul, Odisha. Photo: Ashis SenapatiAn adult male elephant aged around 20 years has been poisoned to death in Odisha’s Angul forest division.

Forest staff found the carcass of the tusker in the forest near Mahisigotia village, under the Bantala range September 27, 2021.

“An autopsy report on the carcass September 29, 2021, showed that the elephant had been poisoned,” Dr Kishor Kr Sahoo, the veterinary assistant surgeon of Satkosia wildlife division, who conducted the autopsy along with others, said.

“We found poison in its digestive system. The tusker may have died from drinking deliberately poisoned fermented rice beer locally called ‘Handia’,” Sahoo said.

The carcass of the elephant had foam at the mouth, which indicated poison, he noted. “We suspect the jumbo was poisoned by angry villagers for destroying crops,” Sahoo added.

“The elephant died due to toxemia, an abnormal condition associated with the presence of toxic substances in the blood according to the autopsy report,” Mihir Patnaik, the assistant chief conservator of Angul forest division, said.

He added that a case had been registered in connection with the incident. “We are searching the area for signs of any more dead elephants,” Patnaik said.

Elephants are voracious eaters and often raid crops in villages near forests for food. Farmers electrocute or poison elephants to protect their crops, Jayakrushna Panigrahi the secretary of Odisha Environmental Society, a non-profit, said.

“Inadequate patrolling by forest officials and a lack of monitoring has led to this situation,” he added.

The Odisha government has recently chalked out a plan to use honey bees to prevent elephants from straying into villages near the forest to raid paddy, sugar cane, vegetables and other crops.

“We will soon start this project for the first time in the Athmallik Forest Division of Angul district under the RE-HAB (Reducing Human-Elephant Attacks Using Bees) project, Sashi Paul, principal chief conservator of forests (Wildlife), said.

Some 282 elephants had died in Odisha from 2018 till August 31, 2021, the state’s forest, environment and climate change minister Bikram Keshari Arukha had stated in the Odisha Assembly September 7, 2021. 

Odisha was home to 2,044 elephants according to the 1979 census. According to the 2012 elephant census report, Odisha was home to 1,930 elephants.

The number of elephants reached 1,954 during the 2015 elephant census. The last elephant census in 2017 indicated that Odisha was home to 1,976 elephants.

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