Named Ramu and Jambu by locals, they have become a tourist attraction
A wild bear ‘couple’ have taken to frequenting a Bhairav temple on the outskirts of this town attracting visitors from neighbouring Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh.
Named Ramu and Jambu by the locals, the wild bears visit the temple compound after sunset and wait for passersby to feed them bananas, biscuits and coconuts. The pujaris of the temple, located about 5 km from here, keep the grill gates closed for safety.
“I am here for the past five years. Ramu started visiting our temple three years ago. Since he was quite friendly, passersby considered him an envoy sent by God and worshipped him and fed him. A year later, he found his mate, Jambu. For the past few days, either of the two or both make an appearance at the temple regularly,” said Lakshman Pradhan, the head priest, told The Hindu.
Sloth bears are spotted in large numbers in the Malkangiri forest division, known for its rich flora and fauna. Spread over 3,364 hectares, the dense forest area is also home to leopards, spotted and barking deer, wolves and wild pigs.
“We have thousands of wild bears in the district, which very often attack people and damage crops. I recently wrote to the State Wildlife Warden to send a team from Nandankanan zoo near Bhubaneswar and tranquillise Ramu and Jambu and release them into the interior reserve forest,” said Divisional Forest Officer T. Ashok Kumar.
The Forest Department believes that the two wild bears have become lazy and frequent the temple area from the nearby hillock only to get food. They fear that speeding vehicles may hit them. Under the Wildlife Act, feeding and teasing wild bears are prohibited.
“While going to Jeypore I noticed a bear near the temple immediately after my posting here. Anticipating a risk to the life of the endangered species, I immediately erected a board in front of the temple cautioning the public,” Mr. Ashok Kumar said.
This year alone, 11 attacks by wild boars have been reported in various parts of the district. A tribal named Arjun Kemurudu, 29, an agriculture worker from Old Chitapalle near Balimela, was killed. The Forest Department has got the sanction to pay Kemurudu’s dependents — wife and three children — a compensation of Rs. 2 lakh under the Wildlife Protection Amended Rule, 2002.