Notwithstanding the “elephantine” efforts proposed by the Project Elephant in its elaborate report ‘Gajah’ to secure the future of jumbos in the country, “elephanticides” continue in Odisha. In the latest incident, two elephants died in the State — one due to electrocution and the other shot dead by suspected poachers — in the wee hours on Monday.
Official sources in the State forest department confirmed the killing of two tuskers, of which one had been electrocuted at Hindol in Dhenkanal district by a low-hanging 11 KV line. The other has been found dead at Ghantikhal near Aarti Steel in Athgarh in Cuttack district, shot dead by poachers.
In a letter to the Chief Wildlife Warden, Odisha and the Head of Project Elephant under the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF), the Wildlife Society of Orissa (WSO) has demanded strict action against the power companies.
According to Biswajeet Mohanty, Secretary, Wildlife Society of Odisha (WSO), “The State that took pride in its elephants since the ancient days of King Ashoka may soon lose that exalted status. While determined gangs of elephant poachers chase tuskers in Odisha’s forests for ivory, the pachyderms are also falling victim to careless power companies. But a clueless State Government has turned into a mute spectator, unable to stop these gory killings.”
He pointed out that the State has lost 20 per cent of the population over the last 25 years. Tuskers have been mercilessly shot by poachers and their number has plunged sharply. Most of the ivory is smuggled illegally to foreign countries like Japan, China and Hong Kong.
Last month, three elephants were electrocuted at Telkoi by a low-hanging power line. Sixteen electrocution deaths occurred in 2009. All the electrocution deaths could have been avoided if monitoring of the electricity lines would have been done by the forest department and engineers would have followed statutory safety norms to maintain a minimum height from the ground, experts maintained.
All this even as the State is yet to act on the directives of the Centre with regard to the death of the tuskers in the Simlipal reserve, wherein nearly a dozen jumbo killings have been reported in recent months. The eight-member committee — headed by PCCF Odisha — set up to monitor and submit monthly reports to NTCA on July 7, hasn’t met even once for “technical reasons”.