Bhubaneswar: The Similipal tiger reserve (core area) in Mayurbhanj district with 330 is home to highest number of wild elephants in Odisha.
The State accounts for 1976 elephant population with the animals spotted in 37 out of the 50 forest divisions by the last census conducted in 2017, Forest and Environment Minister, Bikram Keshari Arukha told the Odisha assembly on Tuesday.
Of the 50 forest divisions, more than 50 elephants were found in 11 forest divisions while no elephant was found in 13 forest divisions, the minister said.
The principal elephant habitation corridors in the state are Similapal core area- 330, Dhenkanal- 169, Satakosia- 147, Athgarh- 115, Balasore- 97, Bamra-94, Mahanadi wildlife division- 93, Baripada- 70, Athamallick- 59, Bonai- 59 and Sambalpur- 53.
The forest divisions which recorded ‘zero’ elephant population are Sunabeda, Jharsuguda, Jeypore, Puri, Nabarangpur, Rajnagar, Malkangiri, Koraput, Khariar, Bargarh, city division, Chilika (wildlife division) and Bhadrak.
The State government has carved out three elephant reserves (Mayurbhanj elephant reserve, Mahandi elephant reserve and Sambalpur elephant reserve) for better protection and conservation of these heritage species.
Mayurbhanj elephant reserve comprises of Similipal tiger reserve (core area), Rairangpur, Baripada,Balasore wildlife and Keonjhar wildlife divisions. Mahanadi Elephant Reserve comprises of Satkosia wildlife, Mahanadi wildlife, Angul, Dhenkanal, Athgarh, Athmallik, Boudh, Nayagarh and Cuttack divisions. Sambalpur Elephant Reserve comprises of Jharsuguda, Sambalpur,Bamra wildlife, Bonai and Rairakhol divisions
Mayurbhanj, Sambalpur and Mahanadi elephant reserves are home to 1536 elephants, accounting for 77.73% of total population. These areas have seven wildlife sanctuaries.
In five other wildlife sanctuaries, headcount of 79 elephants (3.99%) has been made. Outside the Elephant Reserves and sanctuaries, 361 elephants ((18.26%))were found living in the forested areas.
The elephant population in the State is marked by gender imbalance with 1092 females, 344 males. The gender of the rest is yet to be ascertained.
Odisha figures fifth in the list of elephant population in the country with the States of Karnataka : 6049, Assam : 5719, Kerala : 3054, Tamil Nadu : 2761 being home to more elephant population.
In 1979 there were 2044 elephants in Odisha which has plunged to 1976 as per the latest census conducted in 2017 year.
2015 census had found 1954 elephants inhabiting in Odisha’s forested areas. There has been slender rise (1.12%) in population of elephants accorded heritage animal status.