‘Mast’ elephants keep vehicles off road

Dehra Dun : Pachyderms who roam in the wilds of the Rajaji Sanctuary and are known to create havoc in and around the villages in its periphery rummaging for food, much to the chagrin and panic of the villagers, have now caused the forest authorities to close the Dehra Dun-Rishikesh road from 9 p m to 6 a m every day. Traffic is allowed to move from 6 p m to 9 p m but only in convoys, lest there be an attack by the wild elephants.

The reason is that the elephants are ‘mast’ or on heat in popular parlance and as over 12 kms of the road falls in what used to be an elephant corridor and is still used by the tuskers while crossing from the Rajaji Sanctuary to the Motichur and Chilla Sanctuaries, the wild life department does not want to take any chances. The pachyderms have already caused havoc in the adjoining villages, breaking boundary walls of houses and shutters of shops, and have also been attacking vehicles moving on the road.

According to sources in the wildlife department, the activity of the elephants is known to continue in this stretch of the road round the year, but come winters and this activity increases manifold. Incidentally, the road is also very busy and in the past few years quite a number of people have lost their lives due to attack by the pachyderms.

With this fear looming large, the wildlife department has decided to put up barriers and allow traffic only to move in convoys after 6 p m and restrict all vehicular movement after 9 p m. They said that taking into consideration the fact that the wild elephants movement becomes more active when they are ‘mast’ and their behaviour also becomes violent it was decided that till this period continues, the restriction imposed on vehicles will continue till such time. As of now vehicles will be stopped at the barriers and allowed to proceed in convoys after every half hour.

Sources said that the wildlife department staff had also been asked to patrol this stretch of the road and keep an alert on the movement of the elephant herds in the forests. “They have been asked to sound an alert as and when the herds come near the road and fire in the air so that the pachyderms are diverted back to the forests. Platforms have also been made for the staff to serve as watch towers for the movement of the elephant herds during this period of time”, they added.

A journalist with over 40 years of experience, Jagdish Bhatt is Editor Hill Post (Uttarakhand). Jagdish has worked with India's leading English dailies, which include Times of India, Indian Express, Pioneer and several other reputed publications. A highly acclaimed journalist, Jagdish is a recipient of many awards, latest being the 2011 Development Journalism Award. He lives in Dehra Dun.

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