Various activities are forcing the animals to take non-conventional routes

Even as the recent killing of a British tourist by an elephant in Singara and the resultant furore has galvanised Forest Department officials into taking damage control measures including putting up of posters to warn tourists, conservationists aver that until people steer clear of natural corridors such tragedies will continue to occur.

Pointing out that Singara also known as Singarathottam which forms part of the Segur Plateau, has always been associated with elephants, Conservationist and Wildlife Photographer P. J. Vasanthan told The Hindu here on Friday that it opens out to the plains through the Gajalhatti pass.

The region serves as a migratory corridor for the elephant herds moving from the eastern part of the district to the western parts and adjacent Kerala. Migration is a vital part of elephant behaviour as it not only facilitates mixing of herds but also prevents overgrazing of the forests.

Migratory patterns have remained constant through the years with the herds moving out from the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve and the Ouchterlony Valley around the tail-end of the South West Monsoon. They travel through the jungles and along the water courses adjoining the hamlets of Bokkapuram, Masinagudi, Chemmanatham and Mavanhalla to reach Thengumarahada beyond the North Eastern Slopes around November. The return journey starts around the end of January and the herds reach their home ground around March.

The Segur Plateau is known to have been inhabited for centuries and humans and elephants have coexisted peacefully till recent times. Though shrinkage of habitat due to expanded human activities can be attributed to human-animal conflict in other areas, it is the obstruction of traditional migratory routes which is the cause for most of the problems as far as this area is concerned.

Various activities are now forcing these animals to take non-conventional routes leading to an escalation of man-elephant conflict.

Pointing out that most of the denizens of the jungle are wary of humans and often move away when they sense their presence, Dr. Vasanthan said that they attack only when their warnings are not taken heed of. Usually, the attack is only an act of self preservation, to get the intruder out of the way, and not a deliberate attempt to kill. Elephants are no exception to this rule. They silently move away if they sense the presence of humans.

Though elephants have a phenomenal sense of smell they have very poor eyesight. Hence even traditional forest dwellers who treat tigers and leopards with contempt treat the elephant with respect and give it a wide berth. To a question, he said that in forest areas only tribal people should be used as guides.