Bhubaneswar, September 22 (Odisha.in ) Elephant population is very much in danger in the tribal dominated and mineral rich Keonjhar district of Orissa, bordering Jharkhand and West Bengal because of indiscriminate mining activities and deforestation.
According to forest department sources while during 1995 census presence of 130 elephants were recorded , now it has come down to only 51 as recorded during the 2007 census.
During 1999 census while the number of elephants in this district were 75 , during 2002 it had gone up to 112. During 2005 the district was divided into Anandapur and Keonjhar divisions and the elephant population recoded in both divisions were only 69, while 2007 census have shown existence of 51 elephants only.
Talking to Odisha.in , Binay Patnaik, an activist working for wildlife and environment said that because of indiscriminate mining, speedy industrialization and deforestation the natural habitats of the elephants have been largely affected. Moreover heavy traffic of trucks, transport vehicles, blasting in mines were also responsible for driving away the elephants from their habitats in search of food and shelter and in the process many of them are falling prey to the ivory smugglers, poachers etc. and many have also lost their lives in accidents.
According to Prafulla Kumar Acharya, Range Officer, Champua forest range , as many as
47 elephants have died in Keonjhar district between 2001 to September 2007.
Records available with wildlife department confirms elephant casualty in 2001-02 at 8 , while in 2002-03 it was 12 , in 2003-04 it came down to 3 , in 2004-05 it was 12 , in 2005-06 it was 4 while in 2007 till September 19 , the number of elephants killed were 8 .
Wildlife lovers and environmentalists consider the recent death of two female elephants by a speeding goods train near Bansapani railway station located at a distance of 350 kms from Bhubaneswar as the most shocking incident . Talking to Odisha.in Biswajit Mohanty, Secretary Wild Orissa emphasized that both the State and the center should give priority to the welfare of the wildlife while planning for carrying on mining and industrial activities so that their population will not be alarmingly affected.
Mohanty alleged that the Orissa Government is fallen prey to a massive conspiracy by the mining and industries lobby, and has withdrawn two proposals for elephant reserves which where pending for notification. The Center had already approved the proposals for South Orissa Elephant Reserve (SOER) and the Baitarani Elephant Reserve (BER) covering Keonjhar ,Mayurbhanj and nearby districts. After keeping the file pending without any reason, the state has asked the center to drop these proposals. Proposals for increasing the area under existing Elephant Reserves have also been dropped.