Wildlife is under threat in Chhattisgarh as the state Forest Department has failed to control the deaths of elephants. A geography where 80% of the population lives in rural areas, and a larger parts depend directly or indirectly on natural resources, the trend is worriesome as another death of a female elephant in Kunkuri-Jashpur region has been reported recently.
The elephant found dead in Balangari village under Matasi Gram Panchayat under Kunkuri forest range. The small town Kunkuri is a tehsil of Jashpur district, which has a Chhattisgarh’s largest Catholic Church.
The dead body of the young female elephant was discovered on March 10, 2020, following which the forest department was informed of the incident by the villagers. As per post-mortem report the elephant was pregnant. Report also found a piece of cloth in stomach. Post-mortem report not found any injuries in the body part of the animal.
The reason of the death has not not been clarified by the forest authority. It is suspected that the animal died from pesticide poisoning. SK Madhav, Forrest Office of Jashpur said, the elephant was a part of a group of elephants moving around the Kunkuri region, that’s why there is a lesser chance of death by poison. He informed that there is evidence that a group of elephants are moving around Badalkhol Sanctuary. The dead elephant was a member of this group.
Prior to this incident, a wild elephant died on December 27, 2019 after being trapped in a muddy field for four days in Korba district of the state. The elephant was stuck in the marshy field near Kulhariya village panchayat under Katghora forest division. 4 days rescue operation failed to save the life of elephant.
In June, 2019, a captive elephant also died during the 6 days treatment under the supervision of Forest Department.
Human-Elephant conflict in Chhattisgarh has claimed the lives of a number of elephants and people. Deforestation, habitat degradation, mining of natural resources, lower level of awareness of local community, negligence of the forest authorities are key reasons for the human-elephant conflicts.
The death toll due to human-elephant conflict is increasing in Chhattisgarh. At least 65 people and 14 elephants get killed in the state every year, a government report said.
As per the government’s records, 325 people and 70 elephants lost their lives in the last five years, with an average of 65 humans and 14 elephants per annum.The loss of lives, property and crops led to an extra burden of Rs 75 crore on the government.
Currently, elephants are found in Surguja, Bilaspur, Raipur and Raigarh forest circles of the state. As per Govt. there are more than 254 elephants in the state, which move around in 19 herds.
The maximum impact of this confrontation can be witnessed in Chhattisgarh where pachyderm habitats are degrading rapidly.
On 15th August, 2019, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel announced the formation of Lemru Elephant Reserve in the State. Lemru Elephant Reserve (LER) is being set up over an area spanning 450 square kilometers. This reserve is aimed at minimizing human-elephant conflict and destruction of property in addition to providing a permanent habitat for the wild tuskers. Efforts to control elephants in the state started in 2005.
It should be noted that in October 2007, the Union Government had given its consent to form two elephant reserves in the State. These were to be formed in Chattisgarh in the areas of Bandalkhol and Tamor Pingla forests and the second one as Lemru Elephant Reserve. Chhattisgarh Govt. had also formed Sarguja-Jashpur Elephant Reserve in 2011.
In 2010, the central government declared the elephant an animal of national heritage to scale up measures for its protection. Project Elephant (PE) was launched by the Government of India in the year 1991-92 as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme with the objectives to protect elephants, their habitat and corridors, to address issues of man-elephant conflict and welfare of domesticated elephants.
The Recorded forest area in Chhattisgarh is 59,772 km2 which is 44.21% of its geographical area of the state. State has 3 National Parks and 11 Wildlife Sanctuaries.
As per the annual report 2018-19 of Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, India has approximately 2675 captive elephants. The total estimated population of wild elephants in the country based on the All India Elephant Census of 2017 is 29964.
(Rusen Kumar is the Chhattisgarh based media entrepreneur. He is the founder of India CSR Network)