Increase in forest cover has boosted the elephant population in Jharkhand where around 100 pachyderms have died either due to electrocution or in train accidents in the last eight years.
The recently released Forest Survey of India report has revealed that at least 11 Jharkhand districts, all of them infested by Naxalites and pachyderms, have witnessed rise in forest cover in the recent past. Nationally, India has added 3.13 million hectares of forests in the decade between 1997 and 2007, at the rate of 0.3 million hectares every year, the report added.
Expanding forests have done some good to the dwindling elephant population as the jumbos are straying lesser into human habitats, thereby minimizing accidents and electrocutions. This apart, forest officials said, several new calves have been spotted with the elephant herds, especially in Dalma Wildlife Sanctuary, home to state’s biggest jumbos.
Jharkhand has one national park and 11 wildlife sanctuaries. The forest cover in the state based on interpretation of satellite data of October-December 2006 is 22, 894 square km, which is 28.72 percent of the state’s geographical area.
Population of elephants, which is the state animal, was 550 during the 1993 census. It increased to 618 in 1997 and further went up to 772 in 2002, but declined to 624 in 2007. From 2002 to 2007, there was a spurt in unnatural deaths of elephants, largely due to accidents and electrocutions.
“Conditions have significantly improved in the past couple of years as several new arrivals have been spotted in elephant herds,” said regional chief conservator of forests (RCCF), A K Gupta, as he attributed the increase in green cover to joint forest conservation drive by his department. He reserved his comments on the presence of Naxalites doing any good to forest conservation in the state.
Having presence in at least 223 of India’s 624 districts, the CPI (Maoists) call shots in 18 of Jharkhand’s 24 districts. The Maoists have announced a ban on felling trees in the state. Their fear has robbed jobs of the once thriving timber mafia, compelling them to switch to other jobs.
“A lot of efforts have gone into prevent the elephants from straying near railway tracks,” said divisional forest officer (DFO), A T Misra, as he narrated how with the help of railways, they were putting up electrified fencing at strategic routes the elephants follow. He said maximum casualties in train accidents have occurred in the dense Saranda area, around 150 km south west of Ranchi.