Villagers said the marauding herd of 22 elephants, including three calves, are entering villages after dark and targetting agricultural land and stocked food grains. "With the jumbos staying put on hilltops during the day and entering villages in night, we are virtually spending sleepless nights. People fear to venture out in the night, fearing elephant attack," said Bishnu Kasi of Singari village.
The villagers also complained of inaction by forest officials. "We have informed forest officials, but nobody has come to help us. They have not done anything to drive away the animals. We may be forced to attack the animals to save our lives, but if they are harmed in the process, we should not be held responsible," said another local.
Sources said the elephant herd is roaming in the forests adjacent to Jamudaguda, Nuagaon, Singari and Bagri villages. Officials said the herd has sneaked into Rayagada district from Kalahandi district's Karlapat sanctuary.
"Officials are keeping a constant watch on the movement of the elephants and trying to keep them away from villages. We are also making people aware not to bother the animals. If villagers tease the jumbos then they will be attacked," divisional forest officer (Rayagada) Ramani Ranjam Das said.
"We are assessing the damage done to agricultural lands. Once our assessment report is complete, then compensation will be paid," Das said. The forest department has given exgratia of Rs 2 lakh to the family of the boy who was killed by an elephant at Singari on October 14, he said.