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Odisha puts on hold the elephant-radio-collaring project after tusker injures five forest staff

The department had decided to tag three problematic tuskers in Chandaka wildlife sanctuary, Khordha and Dhenkanal with radio collars to track their migration path in a bid to curb the incidence of pachyderm depredation in human habitation areas.

SNS | Bhubaneshwar |

Odisha forest department has decided to suspend the project to tag the problematic elephants with radio collars even as a wild tusker went berserk to injure at least five forest personnel in Khordha district while they were trying to tame the animal by the tranquilizing method.

“It has now been decided to put on hold the programme because of an incident that occurred today morning. The decision regarding the next course of action regarding the implementation of the radio-collaring will be taken later”, said Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF) and Chief Wildlife Warden (CWW), Sasha Paul said.

The department had decided to tag three problematic tuskers in Chandaka wildlife sanctuary, Khordha, and Dhenkanal with radio collars to track their migration path in a bid to curb the incidence of pachyderm depredation in human habitation areas. Besides, plans were also afoot to radio collar wild elephants in Simlipal national park in Mayurbhanj district as a part of a research programme, he said.

Conservationists had earlier cast doubts over the effectiveness and life of the radio collars proposed to be fitted on problematic tuskers of Odisha to monitor their movement in the wake of the failure of a similar project in neighbouring Chhattisgarh.

Today’s incident occurred near Gayabandha village under Jankia police station jurisdiction during wee hours as the forest personnel faced elephant’s fury during its tranquilization.

The injured included an officer of assistant conservator of forest (ACF) rank. The injured personnel was rushed to the All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS)-Bhubaneswar. They are stated to be stable.

A herd of as many as 30 elephants had sneaked into Jankia forest areas and unleashed terror in the region. The animals had vandalized the standing crops as people in the forest-side villages were having sleepless nights due to elephant depredation.

The herd had later left the place abandoning the problematic elephant, which had triggered havoc in the region. Keeping in view the growing public anger, the forest department had undertaken the drive to tranquilize the elephant to leave it to its original place of habitation to put to an end the ongoing man-animal conflict, said a senior forest official.

It appeared that the elephant was not properly tranquilized. And therefore, it regained consciousness to launch an attack on the forest team in an act of self defence.

Odisha is home to 1976 elephants with females heavily outnumbering the male species as per the latest headcount of these mammals. The coastal State figures fifth in the list of the elephant population in the country with the States of Karnataka: 6049, Assam: 5719, Kerala: 3054, Tamil Nadu: 2761 being home to more elephant population.  Of the 43 forest divisions in the State, as many as 37 divisions were found housing elephants, added forest officials.