The impact of the ongoing joint-operations against Maoists in West Bengal's south-western districts may have spilt over to the wildlife of the region, disturbing the migration patterns of certain elephant herds.

“Elephants from the Dolma forests in Jharkhand usually enter the region in Paschim Medinipur district in July and return in January or February. But this year, the herds, instead of crossing the State border in January, went back to Bankura. And now it is again time for them to re-enter West Bengal,” Atanu Raha, State's Prinicipal Chief Conservator of Forests, told The Hindu on Monday.

Consequently, instead of migrating along the usual route, the elephants have stayed back at the same place for nearly a whole year, Mr. Raha said.

None of the herds that pass through the region, which includes nearly 60 elephants, have done so this year, he added.

Asked if the operations against Maoists, which often include exchange of fire within the recesses of the forests and landmine explosions, could be the reason behind the aberrant behaviour of the pachyderms, Mr. Raha said that although the exact cause could not be established, “there has certainly been a lot of disturbance in the border region this year.”

“The elephants are not able to venture into the region,” Mr. Raha said, adding that their continued presence in the region had resulted in an escalation in incidents of man-animal conflict as well.

Stating that not much can be done to regulate the behaviour of elephants, Mr. Raha said that the Forest Department would just have to wait till they resume migrating along the normal routes.

“Presently, we are just ensuring that the payment of compensation and immediate response in the event of any incident of man-animal conflict is reported, to minimise their occurrence,” he added.