Odisha struggling to deal with elephant poaching

According to the Wildlife Society of Odisha, the State lost 423 pachyderms since 2017-18

Published - June 12, 2022 01:33 am IST - BHUBANESWAR

A herd of elephants near Balikiari in Odisha’s Cuttack district.

A herd of elephants near Balikiari in Odisha’s Cuttack district. | Photo Credit: LINGARAJ PANDA

The Odisha Forest Department has found itself in a tight spot over alleged instances of elephant poaching over the past fortnight.

A suspended forest officer recently scaled the boundary wall of the Athagarh Forest Division office to evade questioning on elephant deaths in Cuttack district. The incident took place while a Special Task Force (STF) of Odisha Police’s Crime Branch was looking into allegations of poaching of two elephants in Badamba range, which falls under the Athagarh Forest Division.

The suspended forest officer, identified as Manoj Das, was accused of negligence and being involved in destroying evidence of elephant poaching. Six persons, including three elephant watchers and a forest guard, were arrested over the deaths. Two forest officials were booked under the Wildlife (Protection) Act.

According to sources, two elephants, including a tusker, died from electrocution earlier this month and the carcasses were buried to destroy evidence. Two carcasses were also found in the Boudh Forest Division in a span of three days.

Three Forest Department officials were suspended and three villagers were arrested in connection with alleged elephant poaching. The Forest Department acted based on a tip-off about the presence of poachers in the Boudh Division.

Counting the dead

According to the Wildlife Society of Odisha, an NGO, 423 elephants have died in the State since 2017-2018.

Its analysis of elephant deaths shows that 87 died owing to poaching, poisoning or electrocution. Thirty elephants were killed for their tusks, 15 died of suspected poisoning and 42 died from electrocution.

Last week, the STF arrested a man from Angul in connection with the sale of two tusks weighing 4.5 kg. Since 2020, the STF has seized 26 tusks from alleged smugglers in the State.

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