Visakhapatnam: For the past two weeks, people in Bittarapadu, Bhattabhadra, Nimmalapadu and a few other villages under Kurupam and Komarada Mandal near Thotapalli Barrage in Vizianagaram, have lost sleep for fear of elephants.
A herd of six elephants, including a baby elephant, has entered the area and has been seeking shelter in the extension area of Thotapalli Barrage from neighbouring Odisha. The elephants have been entering the maize, banana, paddy, sugarcane and a few other fields in the area and are damaging crops and the thatched houses of the villagers.
"As there have been several instances of people killed in elephant attacks in the past, in Vizianagaram and Srikakulam districts of north Andhra Pradesh, we are in the grip of fear and hope that the elephants return to the forest at the earliest without causing major damage to crops," said villagers K Ramana and K Jagat Kumar from the Kurupam area.
A few weeks ago, the elephants entered a village and damaged the arrangements made by the locals for Ganesh Chaturthi at Duvi village under Komarada Mandal in Vizianagaram district
A senior forest officer said that it was in 2007 that a herd of eleven elephants from Odisha had entered Srikakulam and Vizianagaram districts and since then there has been a conflict between man and the animal every year, resulting in casualties on both sides. More than 10 people in Vizianagaram and Srikakulam districts have lost their lives so far in elephant attacks, while seven jumbos were killed in various incidents, including accidents and electrocution.
Chief Conservator of Forests (Vizag circle) Rahul Pandey said that to prevent crop loss and protect villagers from elephant attacks, they have deployed elephant trackers at Kurupam area in Vizianagaram district.
Despite the efforts of the forest department, the man-animal conflict continues and people in Kurupam and Parvathipuram areas in Vizianagaram district get caught in the grip of fear as the elephants haven’t moved from the area.
In a bid to chalk out a plan to address the intensified conflict between human beings and elephants on the Andhra Pradesh and Odisha border, the forest department officials from both states held an inter-state joint coordination committee meeting in Vizag recently. The committee will meet once every three months to make new strategies and find results.
A dedicated elephant monitoring unit was formed to track the movement of elephants round the clock. The unit will be manned by experienced staff and they will be provided with the required equipment. A Whatsapp group has been formed to ensure a faster exchange of information.