A fifth of the human casualties in elephant attacks across India in the last five years were reported from Odisha. As per statistics of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), at least 2,657 people lost their lives in the human-elephant conflict in the country in the five years between 2018-19 and 2022-23 of whom 542 (20.39 per cent) were from Odisha.

Odisha is followed by its neighbours Jharkhand, West Bengal and Chhattisgarh where the death figure, during the period, remained 474 (18 per cent), 389 (14 per cent) and 313 (11.7 per cent) respectively.

With 393 deaths (around 14.79 per cent), Assam is also among the top five states in terms of most human casualties in elephant attacks. The disturbing figures of elephant range states of the east-central region, Odisha in particular, are more worrying when compared to other elephant states especially Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, where the casualties have remained way less in spite of the fact they are home to one of the highest population of the gentle giants in the country.

Karnataka, where the elephant population is estimated to be around 6,395 as per the recent head count, reported just 124 human casualties, only 4.6 per cent of the total fatalities reported in the country in the last five years. While the southern state's average human casualties in the jumbo attacks remain around 25 a year, in Odisha it is around 109.

What's more concerning for the eastern state is its human casualties in the last five years have doubled. As per data, human casualties in elephant attacks in the state which stood at 72 in 2018-19, increased to 117 in 2019-20. Though it fell to 93 in 2020-21, the figure again jumped to 112 in 2021-22 and 148 in 2022-23 - the highest in the last five years. In 2023-24, sources said, the state has already reported 70 human casualties till August 26. This week alone, two persons, including a woman, were killed in an elephant attack in Angul forest division

Though the state government, in May this year, hiked ex-gratia compensation in cases of death due to attacks by elephant or other wild animals from Rs 4 lakh to Rs 6 lakh and also hiked compassionate grants in other heads to deal effectively with the conflict situation, a senior official from the Forest department admitted the department is struggling to deal with the situation because of damage caused to forest cover as well as traditional elephant corridors along with existing poverty scenario which compels people to depend on forest and defecate in the open in the conflict zones.

Fencing of agricultural land is another huge task where the Forest department is on the back foot.PCCF wildlife SK Popli could not be reached for his comments but sources said this year the Forest department is planning solar fencing of around 200 km of farmland to check human-elephant conflict.