Dhenkanal: The fear of the elephant menace has severely hit normal life in parts of the Dhenkanal district by triggering a wave of panic among people, a report said. There has been no letup in man-animal conflicts in the district, with 10 people dying of elephant attacks in the last one month. The deaths often lead to a law and order situation, which has become a cause of concern for the forest department and local police.
All works relating to livelihood, cultivation, studies, and other emergencies have come to a halt. Some tuskers getting separated from their herd has caused the situation, alleged the villagers. People here live a life of seclusion and loneliness away from their normal lives. It was learned that they fear stepping out of their house, fearing that they might get trampled. They only come out of their houses in groups armed with lathis and a torch when there is an urgent need. An eerie silence prevails in the village, and the roads take on a deserted look as evening descends. Wildlife experts said that the animals are straying into human habitats due to food scarcity in forests. Making matters worse, the blistering heatwave has become intolerable and forced them to rush into human habitats in search of food and water. The smell of the ripe mangoes, jackfruits lures them, for which they flock to the human settlements and unleash a reign of terror, they added.
Reports said that as many as 15 tuskers have been separated from their herd and wreaked havoc in eight forest ranges in Dhenkanal. The forest department has been making a series of efforts to drive these animals away into the jungle, but in vain. This has only emboldened the tuskers to go on a rampage, destroy crops, properties, and take human lives that come their way. They chased and attacked the villagers whenever they had a face-off. The man-animal conflicts are now not limited to the boundaries of the villages but have entered into political discourse, with various political parties adopting them as a strategy to attack other parties. The opposition BJP had warned of agitation, but the pleas are yet to be addressed. It is alleged that the administration is not making any efforts to resolve the issue by holding talks with the forest department.
Wildlife experts were of the opinion that there is a need for a long-term plan and regular patrolling in the affected areas to check the elephant menace. When contacted, divisional forest officer Sumit Kumar Kar said patrolling has been intensified in areas of movement of the tuskers. Measures have been undertaken at two places to get advance information on elephant presence. The experiment, if becomes successful, will be implemented in other parts of the district, he added.