Betanoti: As Betanoti range in Mayurbhanj district is a haven for elephants, the Forest department has started recruiting and training of Gaja Sathis who will keep track of the animals and their safety. The Gaja Sathis will also try and prevent elephant-human conflict. In the initial phase, 90 Gaja Sathis have been trained and deployed in 18 sections of this range, sources said. The Gaja Sathis were trained by assistant conservator of Forests, Rabinarayan Mohanty while the training was coordinated by ranger Ghanashyam Singh.
Sources informed that there are 19 Vana Surakhya Samitis (VSS) working in the areas frequented by jumbos in Betanoti range. The department has formed clusters comprising a few villages.
From each cluster, five Gaja Sathis have been recruited to help in work related to the pachyderms. In the first phase, the department has formed 35 clusters and recruited 175 Gaja Sathis out of which 90 have already been trained. Sources said, 10 clusters each have been formed in Betanoti, Krushnachandrapur and Badampur sections while five clusters have been set up for the Baisinga section.
Officials of the Forest department said that all the Gaja Sathis will work under the supervision of the Forest department. Their job is honorary and they will be provided with torches, uniforms and other kits that will help them to keep elephants at bay. At the same time they will provide knowledge to people about precautionary measures that need to be taken in elephantfrequented areas. The role of Gaja Sathis also assumes importance in the backdrop of elephants facing threats from various factors including ‘live’ electric wires and poachers.
After the training programme, forester Prashant Singh Samant and other officials exuded hope that the Gaja Sathis will render their valuable service in containing manelephant conflicts in these areas and ensure safety for both sides leading to a decrease in fatalities. They said that apart from keeping vigil on the elephant herds, Gaja Sathis will help forest officials in their work and create awareness among people about elephants.