It strayed into human habitation in Tiruvannamalai, Villupuram districts

A herd of six elephants that had strayed into human habitation in Tiruvannamalai and Villupuram districts in the last one month will be driven away and taken to elephant camps in Topslip in Pollachi and Mudumalai in the Nilgiris. An operation, named as ‘Malai,’ would begin on Monday, forest department sources said. At present the herd consisting of four males and two females is found in the forests in Thandarampattu near Tiruvannamalai. 

The operation is to be carried out over 10,000 acres of forest land now under the use of the Tamil Nadu Forest Plantation Corporation (TAFCORN) at Mel Chengam, better known as ‘Central State Farm’.

It has been proposed to drive the elephants to the vast TAFCORN campus with the help of Kumki elephants and tranquilise them and transport them to their ultimate destination, which is far off from their ‘home range’.

The herd was once 13-member strong and used to travel along its corridor located between Chithoor forests in Andhra Pradesh and Jawadhi Hills, spread over Tiruvannamalai and Vellore districts.

The elephants’ movement to the neighbouring State was curtailed after Chennai-Bangalore National Highway had been made into four-lane corridor. With dwindling food and water sources within forests, the animals started marauding agricultural lands in the peripheries of forests, triggering man-animal conflict in this region.

In several such conflicts, humans as well as elephants were killed. That apart, a tusker, once a member of the herd, had gone astray. Now the strength of the herd has shrunk to six.

The herd started moving further southward and entered forests in Villupuram district, opening new fronts of operation for forest department. 

Welcoming the Forest Department’s decision to take the herd to captivity, Raman Sukumar, Professor and Chairman of the Centre for Ecological Sciences Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, said the herd was moving in and around the area for the past two decades. Though required fodder and water were available in the forest areas, they surprisingly developed the habit of crop raiding. So, it was better to rehabilitate them in captivity.

He felt that the forest authorities should not initially divide the herd into two groups for the elephants were known social animals. Sometime later, the authorities could think of splitting the herd into two and house in different camps, he added.

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