Santosh Patnaik

VISAKHAPATNAM: With the exit of Hulla (noise) team and elephants staying static in a dense forest in Seethammapeta mandal of Srikakulam district, the State Government has decided to adopt their next strategy on driving the jumbos to Orissa as per the advice of the Project Elephant authorities.

WB team sent back

With the Project Gajendra (also known as Gaja) turning into a ‘white elephant’ and strong protests from Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik against forcible capture and shifting of the elephants from the jungles of North Andhra to their home in Lakhari sanctuary in Orissa, forest officials are waiting for Centre’s clearance on their next move.

The 30-member Hulla team sent by West Bengal Government has been sent back as driving the elephants away by noise emanated from bursting of fire crackers and rockets could not be taken up after Orissa’s opposition following the death of one of the two elephants sedated and shifted to Lakhari sanctuary in Gajapati district.

Sources told The Hindu that an experts’ committee formed under Project Elephant is seized of the matter.

It is not yet decided whether to bring trained elephants from Assam, Kerala and other States to use them to chase the elephant herd, which wrought havoc in tribal areas of Vizianagaram and Srikakulam districts after migrating from Orissa three months ago.

The herd had so far claimed 10 lives in Andhra and five in Orissa. Of the 11 elephants spotted in the herd, one died in GL Puram forest.

Among them, one died after it was taken to Lakhari by lorry and another went to the sanctuary alone.

The remaining seven elephants, which were moving in two groups, are now regrouped and staying without any movement in a thick forest near Kothapeta village for past few days.

The 15-member tracker team is also not able to chase them away due to risk of life.

When contacted, Conservator of Forests P.V. Padmanabham said that as of now, they had paid Rs.20 lakhs towards compensation to the families of those trampled down by the jumbos and about Rs.7 lakhs on trackers and others.