Decline in elephant count



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There are moments when cynicism informs all judgements about scribes. This is especially in evidence when the media writes about the battle between poor nature and destructive humans. I should therefore be forgiven by those who think that I am being foolish for pleading more for animals in distress than human beings. I do so because there is a limit to how far anybody can remain a patient bystander while nature is ravaged.

In Orissa, where the population of wild elephants is rapidly going down, the situation is pathetic. Recently, the Centre made an allocation of about Rs 58 crores for the improvement of elephant habitats in the state, with a special emphasis on the restoration of elephant corridors which have been virtually non-existent since the last two decades.

During the last five years Orissa has lost 280 wild elephants. Most of them have become victims of poaching and electrocution. While 231 human have lost their lives. These figures are the outcome of rapid and unholistic urbanization carried out by the people in power. It may be asked as why the media is so active over the issue of elephants. It is a question of common sense.

One can’t see even a single vulture in the skies of Orissa nor do we hear the chirping of the sparrows anymore. The sight of mynas has become rare and 90% of foxes in the state have vanished due to indiscriminate poaching by rapacious elements trading in animal hides for taxidermists. So the fate of the pachyderms on the run can well be imagined.

The CAG report this year has spared no words in reprimanding the state government for its gross underutilization of the funds earmarked for conservation of wild elephants. It takes the government to task for laying emphasis only on paying compensation to victims of man – elephant conflict.

The report, in an apparent swipe at the forest authorities, pointed out that on an average 56 wild elephants are being killed every year in Orissa. The report has rubbished the claim of the government that the elephant population in Orissa is on the rise. Out of the Rs 6.68 crore given for conservation in last 5 years, 47% i.e Rs.3.12 cr has been spent on compensation and the rest of the money has remained unspent. The report, identifying mindless urbanization, mining activities and industrialization as the main causes behind depletion of elephant population, has observed that it is the duty of the people in power to save the species.

Be it the sanctuaries or in normal elephant habitats, the situation today threatens to impair the security of the pachyderms as much as other scheduled species. For instance, officially hired modernisers have allowed people to ascend along the rugged precipices of Chandka forest, which is an elephant sanctuary, like ants to set up housing complexes. There is widespread discord in the forest department and the Chief Minister who is also in charge of the forest department, unconscious of the barricades created by his squad of civil servants, seems to have consigned the animals like moths to the flame.

The disarming sincerity with which the Chief Minister always mouths homilies in favour of the wildlife species is no compensation for the rot at the bottom.