Predicament of Pachyderms

Posted by: Partha Pratim Patra on


Undivided Koraput district of Odisha is known throughout the state for its rich forest resources and biodiversity. Most of the major fauna of peninsular India are encountered here with the only exception of the Asian elephants. The movement of elephants was confined only to Chandrapur forest range of present day Raygada district due to its proximity to forests of Phulbani and Kalahandi district where these huge beasts are found in good numbers. Strangely enough pachyderms were never sighted in any other part of the district in last hundred or more years, although the habitat is ideally suitable for them (abundance of bamboo). But in a startling turn of events few elephant herds have been found straying into the Koraput and Jeypore forest divisions in last three years. Elephants were alien to these forest divisions or at least this is what the record of forest department says. A herd of about thirteen elephants had ventured into the Koraput forest division from Kalahandi district(most likely from Karlapat WLS area). During past few months this herd caused a lot of damage to crop and property in Dasmantpur and Laxmipur block of Koraput subdivision. Even more alarming is the fact that within last one month itself four adult elephants of this herd were reported to have died. Similarly another herd was spotted depredating Borigumma and Jeypore blocks. One adult from this herd was found dead in a paddy field near Bsinghpur village of Borigumma block. At least three people have lost their lives to this herd. Most of the districts of Odisha witness similar episodes everyday. Pathetically poor and ineffective forest management by the state government is only to be blamed for this. Last one decade saw a huge loss of forest cover due to mining and shifting cultivation. Except for a few Vana Surakshya Samiti formation and planting few acres of plantations, the forest department is literally doing nothing in the state. Though the state is singing songs of own praises that forest cover has increased, the real picture is something distant from that. En bloc the forest cover might have increased but natural forest cover (pristine forest) is disappearing rapidly, especially in the districts of Koraput(Undivided) and Kandhmal. Last summer was the summer of most number of forest fires in the state. Even the well protected Similipal Biosphere reserve could not pass the worst. The elephants, in specific, are worst hit by this loss of habitat as they require large tracts of forest that can fulfill their need of green pasture. This has also resulted in widespread migration by these beasts. People from the area to which these elephants migrate resist the arrival and starving elephants have no hesitation whatever to forage on the crops of these folks. Subsequently loss of life follows from either side. If the area to which the elephants migrate turns out to be a land where elephants were never heard of or seen, then things can only get worse for the people. As people are unaware of the ways to tackle with pachyderms, they end up being the victims. On the other hand elephants also become the victim of the counter violence; either they get injured by gunshots fired by some irate villager or die due to starvation if people choose to guard their crop instead. Though region we are discussing here has forest cover but the forest is mostly fragmented and moderately dense. This directs the elephants to paddy fields and villages. Here in Koraput three of the four deceased elephants are said to have died out of hunger and dehydration. Every now and then forest official shoo away the herds towards Kalahandi forests but only to find them back after 10-15 days in the same forest. Though people have not caused any harm to the elephants so far but their patience can not be put to test for long. It is pointless to add here that such migrations have disastrous implications on man, animal and the environment equally.    


The above case is yet another reminder to us that it is us who ravage the home of wild animals first. Hence everything else that result will be considered our own handiwork. We, the Homo sapiens, are the only creatures on earth who have been blessed with the ability to think and foresee the future with deft precision. Tagged as most intelligent of all living beings, we manipulate and stage-manage things expecting results that go well with us, but unfortunately in many cases things don't go that well as we want them to, at least not in the larger scheme of things. Our damned dams kill rivers, our industries mar wetlands, our factories poison lives in every form, our highways spell doom for wildlife, settlements we build for ourselves deny food to many other creature and the list goes long. We must ask ourselves-Is this what we should be doing to prove ourselves befitting for the Most Intelligent tag? I have this view that a Life lived is dubbed well lived only when it has succeeded, even in the smallest way, to make this world a better place for others to live in. I write this last line remembering the legendary Jim Corbett who lived his life following this simple mantra. Can't we?