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Maharashtra: Elephant Herd Returns To Gondia After 4 Months, Forest Officials Monitoring Movement

In August last year, 22 elephants entered the Gondia district and stayed there till December. Officials said that though their presence in the area was exciting, the pachyderms caused huge damage to crops and went on a rampage in Nagandoh village, prompting them to shift the residents elsewhere. 

A herd of wild Asian elephants stands in Eshan county in southwestern Chinas Yunnan Province
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A herd of elephants that had moved away from Maharashtra’s Gondia district four months ago has come back, forest officials said on Thursday, expressing optimism as well as concerns over potential conflicts with humans. The herd with 15-16 elephants was sighted on April 26 in the vicinity of the Navegaon National Park which is densely forested and has ample water availability, they said. 

Jayarame Gowda R, Navegaon Nagzira Tiger Reserve field director and conservator of forest, said they are keeping a close watch on the movement of the big mammals and holding awareness sessions among people living in the buffer area. 

In 2020, a herd of elephants walked from Chhattisgarh to Maharashtra, for the first time in nearly 300 years. Since then, they have been moving in and out of the state, said officials. 

In August last year, 22 elephants entered the Gondia district and stayed there till December. Officials said that though their presence in the area was exciting, the pachyderms caused huge damage to crops and went on a rampage in Nagandoh village, prompting them to shift the residents elsewhere. 

Dada Raut, assistant conservator of forest, said the herd is now camping near Ranidoh. “There are 15-16 elephants which suggests that the original herd split and another group might be following this one,” he said. 

According to Gowda, the return of the elephants is a good sign but they are also worried that the jumbos might damage the paddy crop. He said they are tracking the movement of the big animals and have called for a ‘hulla party’ from West Bengal. A hulla party comprises experts who keep elephants away from human settlements. 

The official said they have asked villagers not to stock ‘mahua’ flowers or ‘mahua’ alcohol as elephants get attracted by their smell. Gowda said villagers will be paid compensation as per rules in case of crop damage by elephants but they are making efforts to prevent conflicts with humans and keep the herd undisturbed. The department has also increased patrolling, said Raut.

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