Puri’s divisional forest officer Sushant Ray said the elephant tossed 60-year-old Jugal Kishore Bhatt of Gopinathpur panchayat while he was working in his field on Sunday morning. (Image used for representation).(HT FILE PHOTO.)
Puri’s divisional forest officer Sushant Ray said the elephant tossed 60-year-old Jugal Kishore Bhatt of Gopinathpur panchayat while he was working in his field on Sunday morning. (Image used for representation).(HT FILE PHOTO.)

Four killed, 5 hurt in elephant attack in Odisha’s Puri

Wildlife officials said the tusker had sneaked into the Delang area of Puri on Saturday night and caused crop damage. Soon after it went on a rampage in the area.
By Debabrata Mohanty | Hindustan Times, Bhubaneswar
UPDATED ON FEB 23, 2020 10:39 PM IST

Four people were killed and five others seriously injured in Odisha’s Puri district after an elephant went on a rampage on Sunday in growing attacks by elephants in the state.

Wildlife officials said the tusker had sneaked into the Delang area of Puri on Saturday night and caused crop damage. Soon after it went on a rampage in the area.

Puri’s divisional forest officer Sushant Ray said the elephant tossed 60-year-old Jugal Kishore Bhatt of Gopinathpur panchayat while he was working in his field on Sunday morning.

Similarly, 45-year-old Chaitan Sahu of Rajtei village and 65-year-old Makar Palei of Matighar village under Khurda forest division were killed while going for morning ablutions. In the evening, the tusker had killed one Ajay Nayak, a 45-year-old man in Jamalpur village.

Five other villagers were also injured in the attack by the tusker, which spread panic in the area as it attacked houses as well.

Khurda’s divisional forest officer Sudeep Nayak said a team of 30 forest staff are trying hard to drive away the elephant from the area. “We have advised people in at least a dozen villages not to come out of their homes tonight. We have disconnected power supply in the area so that the elephant does not get electrocuted,” he said.

Wildlife conservationists say 2019-20 has turned out to be the worst year for man-elephant conflict in Odisha with the human casualty rising to an all-time high of 113 so far compared to last year’s death toll of 93.

Officials in Jajpur district had to shut down six schools for a day in January after a stray elephant killed two people.

Wildlife officials in Angul district had managed, in the same month, to tranquilise a tusker that had killed six people over six months and injured more than two dozen apart from causing mass destruction of paddy crop.

Odisha’s leading wildlife conservationist Biswajit Mohanty said unlike the previous years, the deaths this year had been reported from districts not known for such a conflict.

“From being localised in Angul-Dhenkanal belt, Keonjhar, Sundargarh and Mayurbhanj districts, deaths have been reported from Khurda and Puri. The forest department instead of taking steps for mitigating the dire situation is more concerned about eco-tourism projects. Quarrying for stones in districts like Dhenkanal has created huge stress for the elephants in the area who are forced to migrate out,” he alleged.

Renowned elephant conservationist Raman Sukumar of Bengaluru-based Centre for Ecological Sciences said though there were no definitive answers to the reason behind the sharp rise in human-elephant conflict, large-scale mining in forest areas of eastern India was adding to the problem.

“The natural habitats of elephants all over eastern India is shrinking. The problem of mining in Jharkhand and Odisha forests is setting the stage for increasing human-elephant conflict,” said Sukumar.

“Another factor could be climate variabilities such as extreme events like extreme drought or extreme rainfall that forces the elephants to leave for a better place,” he added.

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