Hunted for their tusks, elephants wreak havoc on humans in Jharkhand

Ranchi/(IANS): The conflict between elephants and humans does not seem to end in Jharkhand. Since the last eight months, 55 people have lost their lives after they were trampled to death by elephants, while 10 tuskers were killed either in accidents or by poachers. Recent incidents of the man-elephant conflict showed how much damage has already been done to life and property. 

On September 21, a team from the Forest Department recovered the tusk of an elephant from the Latu forest of Palamau Tiger Reserve in Jharkhand. According to department officer Paramjit Tiwari, upon seeing the team, the poachers managed to escape by throwing away the tusk. Similarly, on September 15, an elephant was found dead in the Dumardih forest under the Mandu block in Ramgarh district. By the time this news reached the department officials, the poachers fled with both the tusks of the elephant. 

Although after three days the tusks were recovered from the forest, no action was taken against the poachers in this case. In the first week of August, an elephant was found dead in the Fulhar forest of the Palamau Tiger Reserve area. On July 31, the body of a tusker was found in the Rechi forest under the Balumath police station area in Latehar district. Several people fled with the tusks of the deceased elephant. Earlier on July 17, an elephant was found dead in Bongtel forest under Rania block in Khunti district. It is suspected that the animal died after consuming some poisonous substance. In the same month, another elephant was found dead in  evadbeda
forest of Ranchi.

The Forest Department is probing all these incidents, but there is no major headway so far. In late May, three elephants died after being hit by a goods train between Banspani- Juruli railway station. Shortly after  the accident, nearly half a dozen elephants had gathered on the railway track for over 10 hours. It was reported that a herd of some 20 elephants was crossing the railway line between Banspani-Juruli near Behera Hutting, when they were hit by a speeding goods train. In the first week of May, an elephant was killed in a train collision between Chichaki and Garia stations in Giridih district. Angry elephants created panic in more than 15 districts of the state.

In the last two-three years, elephants have created havoc in Hazaribagh district. So far this year, elephants have killed 15 people in the district. Similarly, nine people have been killed in Giridih, eight in Latehar, six in
Khunti, three each in Chatra, Bokaro and Jamtara districts. Earlier this month, a 30-year-old bike rider, Krishna Hajam, a resident of Gumla Turiamba village, was trampled to death by an elephant near the Komalia forest. On September 9, farmer Sawan Mahato was crushed to death by two elephants in Sarla village in Ramgarh district.

On July 28, Jitendra Ram, a resident of Morangi Nowkitand in Sadar block of Hazaribagh district, was crushed to death by a herd of elephants. On July 27, a differently-abled man, named Harsingh Gudiya, was killed by a wild elephant which had got separated from its herd in Kamla Podho Toli village under Torpa block in Khunti district. On July 22, elephants attacked a Forest Department team that arrived in Karra, during which a forest guard Jasbeen Salgar died.

The Jharkhand High Court, while hearing a PIL in March this year, had made scathing observations on the apathy and negligence of the Forest Department. A bench of Chief Justice Ravi Ranjan and Justice S.N. Prasad had even said that the number of wild animals in the forests kept on decreasing but the number of officers in the Forest Department continued to increase. Taking suo motu cognizance of the death of two elephants in Latehar in August-September last year, the court had converted the matter into a PIL and asked the Secretary of the Forest Department and the Chief Conservator of Forests of the state to appear before the court and seek their response.

The court had also expressed dissatisfaction with the reply given by the concerned officers. In the last Budget Session of the Jharkhand Assembly, the Minister in-charge of the Forest Department, Champai Soren in response to a question related to the reduction in the number of elephants, had said that in 2021-22, the Forest Department has paid Rs 1.19 crore as compensation in the cases related to the damage to life and property in the state by the elephants. In his reply before the Assembly, he said that there were several reasons for the increasing conflict between elephants and humans.

Due to the increase in  population, the migration of wild animals has been adversely affected. Alcoholic beverages are prepared in the villages, the smell of which attracts elephants. Due to this there has also been a change in the habits of elephants and the route of travel. Tanveer, who conducts research on the behaviour of elephants, says that on the basis of the Zoological Survey of India and satellite survey, it was established that elephants return to their ancestors’ path even after hundreds of years only after getting a favourable environment again. 

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