A herd of 12 elephants strayed into human habitations and camped for around five hours at a banana farm at Somaiyanur near Thadagam in Coimbatore district, keeping the Forest Department personnel on tenterhooks on Saturday.

Curious onlookers

More than handling the man-animal conflict, the officials struggled to keep the curious onlookers at a safe distance.

With more people thronging the place to have a look at the pachyderms, the human movement and the resultant disturbance left the herd confused and delayed its return to the forest.

The officials then mobilised police personnel from the Armed Reserve for crowd control and to sterilise the area for enabling the forest officials to commence their operation to chase the herd back into the jungle.

The herd consisted of three female elephants, six sub-adults, including two tuskers and three female calves. The calves were the attraction for the crowd.

District Forest Officer V. Thirunavukkarasu, along with staff from Coimbatore and Periyanaickenpalayam ranges, got search lights and crackers and waited for dusk to set in to put the herd back on its migratory path.

When dusk set in, the herd made an attempt to get back into the forest. But, the elephants got confused when hundreds of people hooted and ran in different directions.

Then the adults and sub-adults formed a protective cordon around the calves and remained at one spot. The stalemate resulted in a traffic hold-up on Thadagam Road due to apprehension that the herd might cross it.

Forest officials did not want to use focus lights and fire crackers to drive the herd back into the forests, which was just 3 km away, as it could have led to the elephants charging at the people around.

With more police personnel arriving at the scene and dispersing the public, the forest officials managed to put the herd back on the path to the forest.