Elephants flare up tension between Andhra-Odisha border villages

Vizianagaram: A herd of elephants has become a flashpoint between the residents of villages on the Andhra-Odisha border. Locals in both states want the big mammals to stay on the other side as they have been damaging crops and attacking humans.

The wild elephants have been inflicting considerable damage in the Komarada Mandal and Vizianagaram district. The pachyderms entered Srikakulam three years ago and have stayed put Komarada since then.

Sources said disputes arise when the elephants cross over to Odisha but are driven back to Andhra Pradesh. Six elephants were spotted in Rayagada district of Odisha last week. However, AP villagers said, over 1,000 people pushed them back to Komarada.

So far this year, the wild elephants have killed three persons in Andhra and trampled crops worth crores of rupees. This has prompted the state to appoint 20 trackers and deploy an equal number of forest officials to keep a round-the-clock watch on the big animals.

A few forest officials from Odisha recently visited Komarada to assess the situation. They plan to meet their Andhra counterparts on December 23 to work out ways to keep the herd safe and prevent man-animal conflicts and damage to crops.

Sources said forest officials from Andhra are making efforts to contain the elephants in one particular geographical area. An expert from Chittoor, one Rakesh who runs an NGO on wildlife, is studying the movement of the elephants. He is also training the trackers.

According to Divisional Forest Officer (territorial forestry) G Laxman, villagers in Odisha are more aggressive when it comes to dealing with wild elephants. “People in Odisha gather in large numbers in chasing away the elephants, often using crude methods, unlike Andhra where people are docile and leave the job to the forest department.”

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