Kerala Forest Dept captures rogue elephants to ease conflicts with humans

By Arun Lakshman

Thiruvananthapuram, Mar 19 (IANS): In a move aimed at curbing man-animal confrontation, the Kerala forest department captured two rogue elephants -- Pandallur Makhna or PM-2 and Palakkad Tusker-7 or PT-7 -- in January 2023.

Pandallur Makhna or PM-2 was a tuskless elephant or Makhna who was involved in the killing of two women in Tamil Nadu's Gudalur area. It ventured into the Wayanad area of Kerala and tried to attack a pedestrian during the early hours. His successive attacks in several areas of Wayanad led to the state forest department deciding to capture him.

A team of forest special squad darted the elephant and captured it. Even after being darted, it attacked Chief Veterinary Surgeon, Dr Arun Zacharia by catching his leg with its trunk but the people present averted the tragedy.

Housed in a 'Kraal' at the Muthanga Elephant Sanctuary, the rogue elephant is now undergoing rigorous training for becoming a 'kumki'.

Palakkad Tusker-7 or PT-7 was another deadly elephant which created havoc in the Dhoni area of Palakkad by killing people and destroying crops. The forest department then decided to capture it.

The elephant was darted by the team led by Dr Arun Zacharaih and is now lodged in the Muthanga elephant rehabilitation camp and undergoing stiff training, again to make him a 'kumki' elephant. It has been named 'Dhoni' as it was where he had created a terror.

Even before the forest authorities could heave a sigh of relief, two more trouble creators -- 'Ari Komban' and 'Chakkakomban' -- have emerged from Kerala's Idukki district.

While Arikomban is a wild elephant around 35 years of age, it barges into ration shops where rice for public distribution is stored. It also attacks the residences of estate workers and charges at trucks plying on the Munnar roads.

The state forest department has already decided to capture 'Arikomban' and the Krall to house him is getting ready. A team of forest department will soon reach Idukki along with four Kumki elephants to capture Arikomban.

'Chakkakomban' has jackfruit as his favourite and reaches the mainland for jack fruits. However, the Kerala forest department has now decided to plant jackfruit trees in deep forests to give the elephants their share of the fruit.

Presence of a large number of herds in places of Kerala bordering the forest areas has become a major headache for the forest department and the Kerala government. Herds of elephants which consist of male, female, and calves have been seen in the Munnar, Aralam, Wayanad areas of Kerala making it difficult for the farmers including rubber tappers to venture into their farmlands.

On Friday, a 43-year-old tribal man, Reghu who entered the Aralam forest area to collect firewood, was trampled to death by a wild elephant. In the same area, a few months ago a couple who was travelling on a two-wheeler to attend a Church mass was attacked by a wild elephant killing the husband, Sunny on the spot.

A senior officer with the state forest department told IANS that the department is in discussion with farmers and political parties to prevent the encroachment of farmers into forest land.

Sudhir Menon, a wildlife activist and Director of Wildlife studies, an NGO on Elephant studies told IANS said, "As I've been regularly speaking, the encroachments into the forest land is the basic reason for these attacks. Another point is that elephants regularly come scouting for food that it likes and once they taste it, there is no stopping the animal. Water is another major reason for the elephants venturing out into the mainland to quench their thirst."

Menon added, "Certain flawed unilateral policies are the major reason for these elephant attacks and unless we find a solution to this, develop a new policy taking into consideration the views of all those involved in elephant studies, and execute the policies taken by the committee, there won't be any solatium to these attacks."

With the state forest department waking up to the intricacies arising from the human-animal conflict, there has to be a new policy in place, to solve the menace once and for all.



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