Villagers live on treetops fearing attack

Villagers live on treetops fearing attack

Jumbo menace

Villagers live on treetops fearing attack

For almost a week, local people in several villages in the Nilagiri area of Balasore district in north Odisha have been spending cold nights atop trees, terrified by the prospect of being attacked by a herd of around hundred wild elephants that had entered the area from the neighbouring Jharkhand and wreaking havoce.

While a majority of the villagers, mostly tribals, of the 15 villages affected by elephant menace, have been living in temporary platforms built on the top branches of trees, many have also taken shelter in school buildings in nearby sub-divisional headquarters town of Nilagiri. No one in the area has so far been killed by the elephant menace. However, the herd consisting of nearly 30 tuskers, 25 calves and female pachyderms, have already destroyed several houses in the villages besides destroying crops in about 80 acres.

The Balasore district administration has been providing cooked food to the affected villagers, an exercise the district administrations usually undertake during natural calamities like floods. “We had never thought that a day will come when we have to provide cooked food to the villagers for elephant menace. We provide this type of relief to the villagers only during natural calamities like the floods or during major fire incidents,” said a Balasore district official.

Forest officials and the district police have been trying their best to push back the  herd to their habitat but in vain. About 170 personnel, including two platoons of police, are engaged in controlling the menace. Nearly eight of them have already sustained injuries in the exercise.

Meanwhile, the state government has revealed that 569 people in the state have lost their lives in elephant attacks during the last 10 years. The menace has already claimed lives of 30 people by October this year. Similarly, during the last one decade 175 elephants have been killed in the state due to various reasons.

Right now, there are 14 elephant corridors in the state. The state government is planning to create nine more corridors in the coming days.