Bhubaneshwar (Orissa), June 12 : Concerned over the growing number of tuskers' deaths due to poaching, electrocution or accidents, the Forest Department of Orissa here recently held a workshop for local villagers over protection of elephants in the State.
In the last six years, around 158 elephants died of unnatural death, out of which 26 had fallen prey to the poachers and 48 died due to electrocution while the rest were accidental deaths.
Twenty cases of elephant poaching were reported this year out of which at least eleven took place in Orissa alone.
The wokshop's objective was to educate villagers about various ways of chasing away the pachyderms by causing least harm to them, other villagers and the farmland.
People attending the workshop were of the view that this unique venture to bridge the gap between humans and animals would hopefully make the mankind more concerned about the pachyderms.
Many villagers at the workshop told how the elephants often trespass into their fields and destroy their crops.
"The elephants coming out from the forests enter our cultivated lands and destroy our paddy crops. We are very much scared by them. When we step on to drive them away, they end up killing some of us," Raghumori Bhoi, a villager said.
Farmers, however, were delighted having learnt many techniques at the workshop to drive away the elephants. They were taught methods to shoo away elephants by using fire and other methods.
Farmers said that clashes between people and elephants were not a good and should be prevented by the government.
Official, however, claimed that they have undertaken various measures to prevent the human-elephant interface.
"Wildlife is taking traditional efforts like putting trench, electric fences, guards for driving the elephants away form the locality besides educating people," said Bijay Ketan Patnaik, the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wild Life Warden of Orrisa. "The Central Rice Research unit was given a project by the Government of India. They have developed some paddy crops, which will not be relished by the elephants," said Patnaik.
Some of the participating delegates stressed upon the need to understand elephants' behaviour.
"Many delegates noted that the problem was not of the habitat but the manner in which the herds of the elephants move in quest of food, water and shelter," said A. N. Prasad, Forest Director for the Project Elephant.
"We have identified some fragmentation and habitat destruction as the major issues but you have to understand the elephants' nature also. They have a tendency to throw out the young population from the group and then they move to new area. So, it's an inhibit system within the elephant population itself," Prasad informed.
"Despite a good habitat you will find that the young male tuskers are being thrown out of the group and they move to new area. New area means problems. People don't know how to handle them and elephants don't know how to bear them," said Prasad. y Sarada Lahangir