Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Jun 9:
While the final figure of the recently concluded elephant census in the Chandaka wildlife sanctuary on the outskirts of the Odisha capital is yet to be made public, official numbers could well be in single digits, raising concerns among wildlife experts over the fast dwindling elephant population in the sanctuary.
Wildlife experts apprehend that the dwindling tally could soon put a zero on board unless adequate measures are taken urgently.
In the recently finished census, two female elephants and a calf were spotted besides a male jumbo in the Bharatpur reserve forest. In addition to this, a male elephant from Deulipatana forest has been spotted near Bharatpur reserve forest.
Interestingly, a group of two female and a calf elephant identical to that seen in Bharatpur forest were spotted in Chandaka forest range. Now, confusion prevails whether the pachyderms have crossed over to Chandaka or they belong to a different group. In case they are different, the number would rise to eight; otherwise, the number would remain at five.
Earlier, there were two male elephants in the Bharatpur forest. Recently, one among them had strayed into Nandankanan zoo on the outskirts of the city which had put the officials on their toes. The amorous elephant had to be brought under control with the help of tranquilizers and driven out of the precincts of the park.
The jumbo, which took considerable amount of time to recover from the tranquillizer shot, moved to Athagarh forest.
While the number of pachyderms has dropped as per the expectations, forest officials are tight-lipped about it. The office of the PCCF said a comparative study is underway and the final figures would be out soon.
The Chandaka-Dampara wildlife sanctuary sprawling over an area of 193 sq km was designated as an elephant reserve in 1982. During that time, there were over 120 elephants in the sanctuary.
As per data available, there were over 80 elephants in Chandaka in 2002, 60 in 2004. However, it remained about 60 during the 2006 census before dropping significantly to 27 by 2012.
Now, the recent census which concluded recently hints that the number of elephants in the sanctuary would remain in single digits.
The numbers have decreased in Chandaka due to migration of these elephants to forests bordering Andhra Pradesh via Ganjam district and to Athagarh forests, forest officials said.
Besides, the three elephants which were knocked down by a speeding train near Subalaya in 2013 belonged to Chandaka, wildlife experts said.
Forest officials attribute the decline in the numbers to food scarcity. However, there are other reasons to it also, they said.
There are as many as five hamlets inside the sanctuary, which are yet to be relocated. The lack of coordination between the Forest and Revenue department has contributed to a flourishing human habitation inside the reserve forest. The human activities have played a major role in the depletion of forest cover as well as food for the elephants. The presence of encroachers is deterring the jumbos to move to isolated places, they added.
Notably, the expansion of the city limits and construction of houses on forest land have encroached upon their habitat. The high mast lights have also played a distraction to them. Moreover, the farm lands in the vicinity of the sanctuary is shrinking which is proving to be a let down for the jumbos.