STATESMAN NEWS SERVICE
Rourkela, 7 July
The herd of 11 elephants which had entered Rourkela and occupied the Birsa Maidan yesterday were driven out by trained experts, including a team from Jharkhand late last night.
Team Elephant walked out of the Birsa ground (soon to be converted into a stadium), almost as if the referee had blown the whistle ending the game that they had played since Saturday. Interestingly, the experts from Jharkhand included a 15 year old girl Tirumala who said, “ I have learnt this from my father and I understand the nature of this animal. They are very beautiful and obedient, and one should respect them not irritate them, else they become violent”. She also said she enjoys what she does. A lot of meticulous planning and hard work right through Saturday had gone into the late night partially successful operation of leading the herd out of the stadium towards the Chirubeda reserve forests. It was only partially successful because the elephants, for some reason, got distracted and climbed the Durgapur hill range. The herd stayed put on the hills and did not come down. The team of forest officials will resume their efforts to get the herd back on track and led it to the forests late tonight.
Yesterday evening, after a through discussion between the forest department, police and the team from Jharkhand, consisting of 12 experienced jumbo chasers started the operation around midnight.
Before the operation, a portion of the divider on the Ring Road and a boundary wall between Ring Road and Bondamunda road were demolished to give free passage to the herd. The experts put burning vehicle tyres, to ensure that the herd followed a certain route. Besides, the forest department officials were ready with fire lamps in their hands on either side of the route. Once everything was in place, the gate of the stadium was opened and the experts started conversing with herd in a alien language that was only understood by the jumbos. Earlier they had gone near them and were given them some instructions.
Once the gate was opened and instruction were being shouted at them the herd started moving almost like trained animals. Tirumala Topno was leading the evacuation with her father close on her heels monitoring the exercise. “It was unbelievable, the herd seemed to obey each command and walk along the designated path,” said awestruck people who had gathered in hundreds to watch the unique spectacle.
The herd reached Tilkanagar, near Diesel Colony in Bondamunda. From there it crossed the railway lines and walked further. By this time it was already 1 a.m. The original plan was to take them to the Sonapur and then to the Chirubeda reserve jungles just behind the Diesel Colony. Since, the incident had created much interest there were people all along the way finally the herd climbed to the top of the Durgapur hill range and stayed there and no amount of command could bring them down.
“We tried our level best, the team from Jharkhand also tried, but the presence of hundreds of people somehow scared them, mercifully they did not attack anyone or turn violent” said Mr PK Dhal, Forest Range Officer Panposh. They will not move during day time and hence the operation will resume tonight he added. The officers are keeping a watch to ensure that the herd does not re-enter the steel town, he said.