BALASORE: A herd comprising 18 elephants from Dalma forest in neighbouring Jharkhand has been wreaking havoc in areas under Raibania forest within Jaleswar range for the last one month. Residents of villages near the forest have been living in panic and do not venture out of their houses after sunset. The forest staff efforts to drive away the herd by burning tyres, beating of drums and blasting of crackers have not yielded the desired result.
The elephants take shelter in the forests of Kendukhunta, Ghardgarda, Janhiphulia, Kalajodi, Baghbuda and Bhadua during the day and sneak into human habitation in the evening. Villagers of Dhanaghera, Sralibasa, Kendragadia, Sukhajodi, Luhapada, Taradigha, Dharampur, Chakuapada, and Kalajoid are the worst affected by the menace. Malati Singh, a resident of Baghbuda village said her family has been spending nights on the roof of her under-construction Indira Awas Yojana house for the last one week owing to the fear of the elephants. Sanjeeb Kumar Patra of Khuard village said communication between Denganalia and Raibania has been cut-off as few people dare to travel on the road after 5 pm.
In a bid to tackle the menace, the Balasore Forest Division has started an initiative called ‘Operation Gajraj’ in the district. DFO Biswaraj Panda said the herd has damaged rice, paddy and even houses in the affected areas. He said the elephants have been sneaking into human habitation in search of Mahua flowers. Panda said since the elephants cannot enter Rajabandh in West Bengal due to several obstacles placed by people there, they sneak into the district and create havoc here. As many as seven teams comprising Rangers of five forest ranges in the district along with other personnel have been engaged to drive out the elephants from the district.
The DFO said officials of NESCO have been asked to cut-off electricity supply to places where the elephants have been sighted. Jaleswar Ranger Saroj Kumar Mohanty said the herd has been divided into three separate ones. While one of them is staying in Rangamatia forest, the other two are present at Sukjudi and Ambpua forests, just six to seven km from the West Bengal border “We are keeping a close watch on their movements,” he said.
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