Elephant attacks haunt tribespeople in Nilambur

The killing of an Adivasi woman by a wild elephant in the Nilambur forests recently has brought to focus the threat posed by wild animals to human settlements.

Most Adivasis living in colonies inside the jungle and on its fringes are under threat from marauding herds of wild elephants. “Elephants are the biggest threat we face,” says Balan, son of the Adivasi moopan at the Mancheeri colony in the Karulai forest range. This colony of Cholanaikars is about 16 km inside the jungle. All Adivasis, irrespective of their age, gender, and experience, dread any encounter with elephants.

On Monday afternoon, Kurumbi, a 66-year-old Adivasi woman from Chembra Adivasi colony at Pothukal, was trampled to death by a wild elephant that was standing behind a bamboo grove near her house. The attack took place hardly 150 metres away from her house. Kurumbi’s husband, Chathan, 75, managed to run to safety. They were collecting mushrooms when the elephant attacked them. “Elephant attacks have increased in recent times. We do not know the reasons. We used to evade elephants cleverly. But it becomes difficult as we grow old,” says Mannala Moopan, a Cholanaikar chieftain of Mannala region well inside the Karulai forest. Adivasis, especially those living inside the forests, make a living by collecting forest produce. They often travel deep inside the forest to collect honey and other items. The dozen-odd families which live in the Mancheeri tribal colony cannot even sleep in their concrete houses that were constructed by the government. All of them have erected makeshift sheds on top of their houses so as to sleep at night without the fear of elephant attack. “We climb atop the terrace using a bamboo stilt at night. We sleep under a plastic sheet,” says Chathan of the Mancheeri colony. Forest officials said electric fencing around the Adivasi colonies could prevent elephant attacks. Electric fences have but disappeared at many places.

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