While bumper fruit production in the wild was a boon for the tribal communities, the same has proved to be bane for them as elephants frequently visit their villages in Odisha’s Sundergarh district. The villagers are really scared that almost every day elephants come perilously closer to human habitations, said Albino Toppo of Delakudar village under Panposh Forest Division in Sundergarh district.
Similar complaints are coming from K Balang, Lahunipara and Nuagaon areas of the district. The villagers say they face such situation due to the bumper fruits. “This summer we had bumper fruit of mango, jackfruit and sola and these are attracting the elephants as these are their favourite,” said a villager of K Balang.
His family owns over fifty mango and jack fruit trees each. “It is not with my tree go to the jungle you have fruits hanging everywhere and it will continue till August and the elephants are having a good time,” he said.
Besides, sola, the seed of mahula, is another attraction for the jumbos. “It gives them little high and they love it as they like the local brew ‘handia’ so they come,” said Suluri Sahu of Totapalli under Lahunapara.
In the last couple of weeks elephants have barged into the villages and have ransacked quite a few houses and destroyed other properties. At Delakudar, on last Monday a herd, consisting of 12 elephants destroyed two houses, similarly at Lahunipara and K Balang the herds also destroyed five to six houses.
In the month of June during one such night raids by the jumbo herds, a baby girl died at Chandiposh. Similar situation is being reported from Sabdega, Lefripara areas under Sundergarh range.
In the last one week, the jumbos have destroyed houses and properties and also savoured the fruits from the trees in Sabdega and Lefripara. “We are keeping night watch on them with the help of the forest officials and try to drive them back,” said Pramod Kissan, who was here to procure fire crackers to be used in anti-elephant drive.
Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Sanjeet Kumar said, “We are keeping track on the movement of the herds but we cannot do much as majority of the villages are deep inside the forest range.”
There are five to six herds moving in these three areas. “Basically they do not come out during monsoon but this time they are coming out because the villagers are maintaining their fruits,” said Kumar.
“We have asked for the help of the local revenue officials to assess the magnitude of the losses and then they will be given cash help as per the departmental norms.”