G. Thomaskutty, candidate of the Left Democratic Party from the Thenmala ward in Kollam district, had a miraculous escape from a herd of wild elephants on Monday evening while he was returning from a campaign at the remote Kattalapara colony inside a dense forest area.

The Thenmala ward is a vast area that comes under three Grama Panchayats. With only fifty seven voters, the Kattalapara colony comes under the Kulathupuzha Grama Panchayat which is nestled inside the Shedurney Wildlife Sanctuary and can be accessed from the outside world only through a 4.5 km road that passes through dense forests.

A permit from the Forest Department is required to use the road. The colony consists largely of farmers who are used to wild animals frequenting the area. But wild elephant herds are rare sights and when they arrive they raid the crops.

Mr. Thomaskutty reached the colony on his motorbike with a friend. After campaigning in the colony, he began his journey back to Thenmala shortly after 7 p.m.

Almost a kilometre into the bumpy forest road a slight drizzle began and Mr. Thomaskutty and his friend came face-to-face with a herd of wild elephants standing on the road. A year ago a herd of elephants, suspected to be the same herd, had trampled to death a lone person travelling on a bike in the same area.

They stopped the bike about 25 meters away from the herd and soon realized that they were trapped as a little behind to their right were another three elephants. In all there could be about twenty elephants and a couple of elephants in front seemed ready to charge.

It was at that moment that a jeep flashing its lights came to their rescue. The jeep scared some of the elephants away from the road but a couple of them stood by the road side. The jeep was coming from a colony beyond Kattalapara. Mr. Thomaskutty was instructed to ride as close to the jeep as it moved forward raising the accelerator.

As the jeep and the bike passed the elephants, two elephants charged the bike for a short distance. The Kattalapara residents say that the wild elephant herds seem to hate the sound of motor bikes but simply ignore jeeps. They also said that it is mainly during the rainy season that wild elephant herds are seen on the road.

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