Rising Elephant Deaths a growing concern for Sambalpur

An amalgamation of several factors, like the loss of natural habitat due to extensive deforestation, poaching, man-animal conflicts, and other unfortunate mishaps such as electrification and railway lines have resulted in a rising number of deaths among the elephant population in the Sambalpur region. A recently released report estimates around 154 elephants have died in the district over the past decade.

With the count of the jumbos dwindling at a fast pace, environmentalists have blamed the Forest Department, pinpointing their inability to protect the creatures from the way of harm. In several cases, the department is alleged to have manipulated the real cause of death to ward off the heat. In reality, the number of deaths is expected to far outweigh the 154 deaths officially recorded.

The demand for ivory has also led to an increase in poaching activity within the forest ranges. Activists have voiced their concerns that these poachers have a free roam within the forests, and hunt down the elephants for their tusks. Once the job is done, they hide the carcass to shroud the evidence. Despite crores of rupees being spent on the rehabilitation of wildlife and protection of animals within these specially designated areas, their population has not risen.

According to an official report, 27 elephants died between 2001 and 2020 in Sambalpur, Rengali, Padiabahal and Dhama ranges. Twelve among them were killed upon electrocution in a trap lay by poachers. Two died in train accident, four shot down and nine others died of sunstroke and other reasons. In the same period, 30 elephants died in the Bamara division. Six got electrocuted, three shot down by poachers while 21 died of sunstrokes, diseases and other reasons. Bargarh division has recorded 11 elephant deaths – as seven got electrocuted, one shot dead and three died of diseases.

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