Bhubaneswar : The safety of elephants is at stake in Odisha with the population of these national heritage animals coming down over the years.
Conservationists have expressed deep concern over the animals’ rising mortality graph even as the State today observes World Elephant day.
“The safety of our National Heritage Animal in Odisha, the land of Gajapati, is in peril. Once the pride of Odisha, the state has turned into a graveyard for elephants. As we celebrate the World Elephant day, the distressed elephants of Odisha have nothing to celebrate with their homes getting encroached for mining, farming, industries, urbanization and their traditional paths getting cut off by irrigation canals, railway lines and mines. In 1979 there were 2044 elephants in Odisha which has plunged to 1976”, said Secretary Wildlife Society of Orissa, Biswajit Mohanty.
Odisha has a poor track record as far as elephant conservation is concerned. About 1497 elephant deaths have been recorded in the state since 1990 till 2019. 718 elephant deaths have been recorded in the last nine years and 5 months alone. The average death per year which was 33 per year from 1990 to 2000 became 46 per year from year 2000 to 2010. The mortality rate has spiraled further in the current with 77-per-year death registered since 2010, he said.
Odisha elephants are besieged with danger from all fronts as the official measure to ensure the safety of these animals is left much to be desired. The elephants are perishing every year due to poaching, poisoning, electrocution, train-run-over incidents, he said.
14 elephant corridors were officially identified by the Odisha government in January’2010 covering over 870 sq km, with the length being 420.8 km and included three inter-state corridors with West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. Rs.20 crores has been spent over 5 years to develop corridors. These corridors are yet to be notified under Environment (Protection) Act 1986 since 9 years as Ecologically Sensitive Zones (ESZ) thereby exposing them to future diversion for mining, industries, canal, railway, dams or road development. Meanwhile WSO has obtained a stay order from NGT 3 years ago that prohibits diversion of proposed corridors he added.