The herd had migrated from Saranda forest of neighbouring Jharkhand

The ongoing man-elephant conflict in Odisha took a new twist when elephants gave a call for a dwell in a stadium literally.

A herd of 11 wild elephants strayed into Bisra Stadium in the steel city of Rourekla and stayed put till Saturday evening.

Forest, police and civil administration were taken by a complete surprise as the herd comprising two male, six female and three calves took resort in stadium in the morning.

Forest Department officials said the elephant herd had migrated from Saranda forest of neighbouring Jharkhand. On their way, elephants damaged auto-rickshaws and buses.

Presence of a herd of wild elephant in the city spread like wildfire as thousands of people rushed to the stadium to see jumbos.

Gathering of people outside the stadium made the matter worse. With elephants confined to the stadium and having no source of food in the proximity, Forest Department officials played role of a perfect host. They threw branches of banyan plant and bananas and showered water on them throughout the day. “This is a peculiar situation for us. We had to deal with two big challenges – managing the huge crowd on the road and preventing elephants from entering areas with relatively denser population. We have sought for more police deployment outside the stadium,” said Subash Chandra Swain, Regional Chief Conservator of Forest, Rourkela.

Mr. Swain said, “elaborate arrangements have been made to drive the elephant herd out of the city during night time. If situation demands, section 144 of IPC would be imposed to prohibit people’s gathering.”

The Forest and Police Department would have to shepherd the elephant group on a 20-km. stretch before leaving them in Saranda forest.

A group of officials from Jharkhand Forest Department has already arrived in Rourkela. The RCCF, Rourkela said another herd of 12 elephants was also camping near Bisra, 15 km. from Rourkela – which meant it would be a tricky operation.

“The incidence of elephant herds straying into city area suggests that there is serious deterioration of elephant habitats. Saranda, a dense forest, has been gradually thinned along the Odisha border. As a result, elephants are often found straying into human habitation,” Mr. Swain said.

Of the 30 districts of Odisha, instances of elephant depredation have been spotted in 26 districts. Near about 300 elephants have died in the State during past five years.

  • On their way elephants damaged auto-rickshaws and buses

  • Instances of elephant depredation have been spotted in 26 districts