Record human kills in Odisha by elephants now requires a re-look by the authorities at top

Prameyanews English

Published By : Prameya News Bureau | March 15, 2024 IST

Man-animal relationship can be dated back to time immemorial and  is a delicate and essential balancing trait which has become all the more indispensable these days when the wildlife habitats are shrinking faster than ever before.

BY D N Singh     

Man-animal relationship can be dated back to time immemorial and  is a delicate and essential balancing trait which has become all the more indispensable these days when the wildlife habitats are shrinking faster than ever before.

 

The headlines in the media platforms are normally laced with the killings of the wild elephants whereas the story on the other side is usually ignored. That is about the deaths of humans by the attack from the elephants. 

 

Human Kills in Odisha by Elephants crossed last year’s record after a woman – Ituwari Bhadra was trampled by a Tusker yesterday at Usumundi, Bonei Forest Division of Sundargarh district. With this incident, in 249 encounters, 149 humans have been killed and 122 have been injured. 

 

“Odisha holds the dubious record of the maximum number of human deaths among all states despite being home to lower number of elephants compared to Karnataka, Assam, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, as per the last census (2017)” said Biswajit Mohanty, Environmental activist who also heads Wildlife Society Of Odisha(WSO). 

 

“The state Forest Department is simply clueless on handling this tragedy despite engaging a private consultant 8 years (2016) ago at a cost of Rs.3.67 crores to prepare a plan for wildlife conflict mitigation” wonders Mohanty.

 

Odisha has 1,976 elephants, compared to Karnataka’s 6,049, Assam’s 5,719, Kerala’s 3,054 and Tamil Nadu’s 2,761. 

 

Between 2019-20 and 2021-22, 1,579 people were killed in the country in 3 years by elephants, the environment minister said in the Lok Sabha last year. Odisha topped the list with 322 deaths, followed by Jharkhand (291), West Bengal (240), Assam (229), Chattisgarh (183) and Tamil Nadu (152).  

 

“Odisha had recorded 148 human deaths in 2022-23, which was the highest for the year in India” rued Mohanty. 

 

The human kills per 100 elephants over three years  is 18 in Odisha  ;   compared to Assam human kills of only 4 per 100 elephants.

 

Where do the problems lie? 

 

Since 2019-20, human kills by Elephants rose sharply crossing 115. Since then, the Human casualties have been on the rise consistently crossing reaching an all time high of 148 in 2022-23. It crossed 148 this year although 23 days are left.

 

It is not that there is an attempt by this write up to demonise the pachyderms in the wild. But it is about the situation created by a gross lack of conservation management by the wildlife wing of the state which has down the years that has pushed the elephants to the walls.  

 

Of the 149 human deaths, Dhenkanal, which has suffered most in the Human-Elephant Conflict in Odisha since the last ten years, recorded 31 human kills, followed by Angul – 24 human kills, Sundargarh – 22, Keonjhar – 18 , Mayurbhanj – 10, Sambalpur – 8 and Khurda – 7. 

 

“On 7th January, 2023, four men were killed one after another by a Makhana elephant covering Bantala, Angul and Talcher Ranges in Angul district, all within two hours in a 20 sq km area, the most horrifying HEC this year” inforned Biswajit Mohanty

 

Odisha has lost 392 elephants in the last 5 years  (2019-20 - 84, 2020-21- 78, 2021-22- 77, 2022-23 – 94, and till date in 2023-24 – 59) . Out of this 137 are unnatural deaths as per forest department plus 94 deaths where reasons could not be ascertained due to decomposed bodies.

 

Reasons behind HEC jumps

 

“ The Rengali canal network in Angul and Dhenkanal district has disrupted age old movement paths and corridors of the local elephants resulting in rampant attacks on villages and raids on crop fields leading to unfortunate human deaths” said Mohanty adding that “there are few crossing bridges over these canals as a result of which elephants are trapped in small pockets and are forced to climb up steep high incline walls of canals”.

 

Habitats fragmented

 

There has been a 10 times growth in quarries and industries in Dhenkanal district as per satellite imagery of 2011 vs 2021 which has strong correlation with jump in human deaths. Despite a demand by WSO since 2021 to shut down quarries in elephant habitats, no action has been taken by the Revenue or Forest Department .

 

“ Rungta Mines steel plant at Tarkabeda in Hindol spread over nearly 3,000 acres   has cut off movement paths and adversely impacted locals. 3 people have been killed in adjacent villages. WSO had demanded in a letter dtd 8.12.2023 to the CWLW, Odisha that immediate steps be taken to control illumination by the plant to ensure easy movement of elephants. However, the forest department has failed to act” laments Mohanty. 

 

The widespread felling of Palm Trees  that provide fodder to elephants in three months of monsoon has also affected their food needs. This is being done to feed the huge demand from Tamil Nadu for the last three years.

About the Author: DN Singh is a Bhubaneswar-based senior journalist.

DISCLAIMER: This is the personal opinion of the author. The views expressed in this write-up have nothing to do with www.prameyanews.com.

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Man-animal relationship can be dated back to time immemorial and  is a delicate and essential balancing trait which has become all the more indispensable these days when the wildlife habitats are shrinking faster than ever before.
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Man-animal relationship can be dated back to time immemorial and  is a delicate and essential balancing trait which has become all the more indispensable these days when the wildlife habitats are shrinking faster than ever before.
Man-animal relationship can be dated back to time immemorial and  is a delicate and essential balancing trait which has become all the more indispensable these days when the wildlife habitats are shrinking faster than ever before.
Man-animal relationship can be dated back to time immemorial and  is a delicate and essential balancing trait which has become all the more indispensable these days when the wildlife habitats are shrinking faster than ever before.
Man-animal relationship can be dated back to time immemorial and  is a delicate and essential balancing trait which has become all the more indispensable these days when the wildlife habitats are shrinking faster than ever before.
Man-animal relationship can be dated back to time immemorial and  is a delicate and essential balancing trait which has become all the more indispensable these days when the wildlife habitats are shrinking faster than ever before.
Man-animal relationship can be dated back to time immemorial and  is a delicate and essential balancing trait which has become all the more indispensable these days when the wildlife habitats are shrinking faster than ever before.
Man-animal relationship can be dated back to time immemorial and  is a delicate and essential balancing trait which has become all the more indispensable these days when the wildlife habitats are shrinking faster than ever before.
Man-animal relationship can be dated back to time immemorial and  is a delicate and essential balancing trait which has become all the more indispensable these days when the wildlife habitats are shrinking faster than ever before.

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