MIGRATION: In what seems to be a first in the state, 30 elephants from various reserves in neighboring state – Odisha – have been living in the core zones of the Barnawapara Wildlife Sanctuary, 100 km from Raipur, in Chhattisgarh for the last two weeks. Judging by the length of their stay and the number of members in the herd, forest officials indicate than this could be a permanent migration.
Sanctuary Superintendent, Arun Tiwari, reported spotting a herd of 12 elephants in compartment number 204 of the sanctuary’s core zone area.
“Two tuskers were last seen in the sanctuary in 2010. However, they didn’t stay for more than a couple of days. But this large herd’s stay here is the longest so far. Elephants usually visit places where food and water is in abundance, do a survey, and if the climate and habitat suit them they return in herds in a few years to settle,” said Tiwari.
Tiwari was optimistic that the herd wasn’t venturing near the neighboring villages as that would create a problem for the local villagers. He further noted that forest guards were keeping a watch on the elephants’ movements and that they were also creating awareness among people to keep the area a least disturbance place for the visiting pachyderms.
“Wild tuskers are generally shy of humans, and they rush when they come across a human or a vehicle,” notes Tiwari.
Apart for a few locals and forest guards, not many have seen the elephants as they are currently watering from the drain in the sanctuary and not taking to the open lakes. However, forest officials have identified the presence of a few male tuskers in the herd from a trail of pugmarks on sand.
“Odisha is home to nearly 1,000 elephants in various protected areas. However, elephants do not follow political borders, and freely migrate across states in search of food and water. Moreover, extreme deforestation, mining, and mining related explosions further add to the disturbing factors for tuskers’ habitats, often forcing them to migrate to quieter and disturbance-free habitats. If these elephants have chosen Chhattisgarh as their new home then it is indeed good news for wildlife in state,” said Arun Kumar Bharos, President of Chhattisgarh Wildlife Society.
Bharos added that the new guests could permanently settle down if they find the area suitable, which incidentally has an abundant supply of their favorite mahua fruit, bamboo and other climbers that form their staple diet.
“The least we can do is not disturb them,” says Bharos.
Permanent settlement of these elephants in the sanctuary could also help boost the tourism industry at Barnawapara, which currently houses a wide variety of faunal species including flying squirrels, black buck, sloth bear, leopards, hyenas, cheetals, and pythons.
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Image courtesy Vinoth Chandar via cc/Flickr