Baripada, Dec 7 (UNI) Drum-beating and torch-wielding tribals have joined the forest personnel to keep at bay a herd of wild elephants, which crossed over to Orissa's Mayurbhanj district from the Dalma elephant sanctuary of neighbouring Jharkhand last Monday.
The 60-strong herd entered West Bengal a couple of days earlier and plodded through villages and acres of croplands in the state before entering Orissa.
Forest officials said the herd was perhaps the biggest in the recorded history of elephant migration from Dalma to Mayurbhanj in Orissa via West Bengal.
In the first such migration recorded history, a 47-strong wild elephants entered Mayurbhanj on February 18, 1999. This herd had entered the Simlipal sanctuary, and after a few days' sojourn in Simlipal, it quietly left the park and went back to its wild habitats in Dalma.
But the present herd was resting in a forest growth near Ghanghana village under Deuli Range of Mayurbhanj district during the daytime, while raiding the croplands in the night hours, Deuli Range Officer Kalakar Mohanty said.
On Wednesday, the herd comprising 17 adult bulls, 30 cow elephants and 15 calves and juveniles of different age groups was sighted at Nodhakundia village, about 35 km from here.
This morning, a school teacher of Palo village confirmed the strength of the herd after headcounting by direct sighting. The herd was today sighted at Jhanuri village of Mayurbhanj located close to the West Bengal border.
The Range Officer said that besides beating of drums and wielding of torches, the villagers with flambeau in hands occasionally burst crackers to scare away the wild migrants.
But the elephants were so much seasoned to such methods that they defied the villagers' mission and went on marching into the cropland during night hours.
Acres and acres of ripe 'kharif' paddy crop had been devoured by the grazing pachyderms, said Hiralal Mohanta of Ghanghana and Ajit Mohanta of Suliapada village.
Despite the crop loss, the villagers exercised great restraint and were not resorting to any method like pelting of stones that could cause irritation among the gentle giants.
The migrants were otherwise calm, but being noctural in nature, they are giving us sleepless night, the villagers said.
Baripada Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Saloram Marandi told mediapersons here today that the Forest department officials and the villagers were jointly monitoring the movement of the herd. The herd had caused extensive damage to the paddy crop, but did not cause any harm to human life or their properties so far, the DFO added.