Elephants invade stadium

On the prowl

Elephants invade stadium

Bisra Maidan, which played host to luminaries like Indira Gandhi, A B Vajpayee and L K Advani in the past, was besieged on Saturday by uninvited guests — a herd of wild elephants, striking panic in the steel city.

Official sources said the herd, comprising six females, two males and three calves, which had stayed for the last couple of days near Bisra Rehabilitation and Settlement (RS) Colony, started the march towards Rourkela city in the wee hours of Saturday.

The residents of the RS Colony say they saw the herd moving from their habitation in the early in the morning, sources said.

The stretch between Rourkela and Bisra is about 21 km, with vast unoccupied expanses, and the jumbos covered it in no time.

The pachyderms did not harm anybody but damaged a wall, a few kiosks and three auto rickshaws before crossing the Ring Road and reaching the stadium, said sources.

Plant Site police got the information and informed forest officials. “On getting information about the presence of the herd, I informed the forest department and moved to the spot. By that, time a small crowd was watching the scene,” said Arun Swain, IIC, Plant Site Police Station.

As a precautionary measure, all the gates of the stadium were closed. “We were lucky that by that time the first sign of daybreak was visible, and the herd generally does not move during daytime,” said S Kumar, DFO, Panposh range.

“First we closed the gates,” said a police official, adding that food items like bananas and mangos were thrown towards them. Later, large branches of mango and banyan trees were brought for the jumbos.

“We are planning to start the process of evacuation during night, say by 10. For that the preparation is being made,” said the DFO.

Shyam, a local vendor, said he heard a high-decibel sound at night and realised it was that of an elephant. "Soon, five-six came out of the stadium and I saw them standing barely 50 metres from me. I froze. They stayed inside the green belt for sometime and then went back inside.”

The trumpeting woke up his friend Manoj. “I realised there was an elephant in the vicinity but it did not occur to me that it was so close. Then I found Shyam running back, and soon others woke up. We were scared,” he said.

The news spread soon, and curious onlookers made a beeline for the ground, which is being developed into a stadium. The police found it difficult to control the crowd as people panicked.

Meanwhile, senior officials of RSP, police and forest visited the spot and discussed steps to deal with the situation.

“We have planned to wait and watch till sunset. Till that time we are keeping our fingers crossed, because it all depends on their mood and situation,” said a forest official.

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