At least four persons in the state have been trampled upon by the elephants in the past seven days. The figure includes the death of two persons, including a woman, who were crushed to death on Wednesday morning. The two were mowed down by an elephant at Ramchandrapur in Angul district when they ventured into forest to collect Mahua flowers.
Of the 527 human casualties recorded since 2017 April, 117 have died only in 13 summer months (April, May, June) that came between the years 2017 and 2021.
According to wildlife expert Dr Biswajit Mohanty, encounters with elephants have seen a sharp rise during summer as they feed on fruits which becomes their main diet due to shortage of usual fodder and water in the forests. Each year during summer months , Odisha witnesses a spurt in human casualties as people and elephants come face to face frequently during harvesting of Non Timber Forest Products (NTFP) like Mahua, mango, jackfruit, bael fruit (Bela), wood apple(Kaitha) and cashew. Elephants stay close to the orchards and fruiting trees and become a constant threat to humans who venture close to them.
This is also the time when Kendu leaves are collected by lakhs of tribal women for their livelihood. During summer, elephants also raid villages for stored food grains and homemade liquor.
“The human casualties in Odisha have gone up in the last four years and the spurt in encounters during summer showing that about 22 to 23 per cent of encounters, human deaths and injuries happen during the months of April, May and June each year,” Dr Mohanty, who is also secretary of Wildlife Society of Odisha, said on Wednesday.
To prevent human kills in elephant movement areas, Dr Mohanty has reminded the Chief Wildlife Warden, Odisha to send out an advisory to all elephant bearing divisions in the state to caution the public immediately against possible encounters with pachyderms. He also requested the Chief Wildlife Warden to advise people not to venture out before day break into orchards and forested areas by making announcements over loudspeakers in all vulnerable areas adjacent to or inside forests.
“Apart from public announcement, flex boards and banners with warning messages should be fixed inside the villages and the local TV news and radio channels may also be requested to broadcast the caution message,” said Dr Mohanty.