Elephants driven to the brink of extinction in Odisha, stare at an uncertain future The distressed elephants in the State face an uncertain and dangerous future and are almost at the brink of extinction.
With the recent recovery of another skeleton of a tusker at Badamba range of Athagarh Forest Division and death of a jumbo which was undergoing treatment at Narasinghpur forest, question mark has been raised over the safety and security of the pachyderms’ population in Odisha.
The distressed elephants in the State face an uncertain and dangerous future and are almost at the brink of extinction. Once the pride of Odisha, elephants now see the State as a graveyard. As per the wildlife experts, the nexus between the poachers and forest officials has turned the state into a graveyard for elephants. The safety of our national heritage animal in Odisha is in peril.
As per reports, skeletons of several elephants have been recovered from Athagarh Forest Division since last few months. Poachers hunting down elephants in the State are also rampant. At least six elephants have been killed in Athagarh Forest Division since last February. While one skeleton of an elephant was recovered in Narasinghpur forest in February, another two skeletons were found in Chandragiri reserve forest in June 2 and 3 respectively. One other elephant succumbed to its illness in Athagarh Forest Division last month. Another gritty tusker with six bullet holes breathed his last while undergoing treatment at Narasinghapur forest yesterday. However, OUAT experts who were engaged in the treatment of the jumbo are of the opinion that the elephant died due to delay in treatment.
Meanwhile, as per the wildlife experts, the population of the elephants is on the wane due to poor patrolling and lack of stern action against the erring forest officials.
“All possible treatment was provided to the tusker struggling with six bullet holes. Had it been detected and treated earlier, the life of the wild animal would have been saved,” rued OUAT expert Doctor Niranjan Sahu.“In absence of patrolling arrangement by the Forest Department, poaching and ailing animals are not detected timely. Besides, stern actions should be taken against the poachers and erring officials to keep the hunting of elephant at bay,” said wildlife expert Biswajit Mohanty.Elephant deaths are being reported not only from Athgarh but also from all parts of the States. While some of the elephants are killed after getting hit by speeding trains, some others are getting electrocuted to death in different parts of the State.In 2021-22, Odisha lost as many as 74 elephants due to different reasons. Making things worse, at least 12 elephants died in the State only in the last two and half months. In an average, 33 elephants died during 1990-2000. However, the numbers almost doubled to 64 in 2001-2010. Things became worse thereafter as at least 946 elephants died from 2010-2022.Expressing deep concern over the surge in the death of elephants in the State, wildlife experts are of the opinion that the killing spree of the elephants is not possible without the knowledge of Forest Department officials.“Recovery of skeletons suggests that the elephants have been killed by hunters. However, it is not possible without the knowledge of the Forest Department officials. There seems to be a nexus between the hunters and forest officials,” said elephant expert Lala A K Singh.Though the government is spending crores of rupees for the safety of elephants, unabated poaching activities across the State has threatened the sustainability and health of the elephant population. Meanwhile, taking cognisance of the death of a wounded tusker who was shot by poachers in Athagarh forest, Union Forest Minister Bhupender Yadav sought strict action against the poachers.“Elephant is our heritage animal and has been given the highest protection under WLP Act. The Ministry has taken cognisance of the incident and the matter has been taken up with the state government for strict action against the poachers to ensure protection of our wildlife heritage,” tweeted Yadav.