A Correspondent

Wild elephants increasingly enter human habitats

KATTAPPANA: The man-animal conflict is a continuous story for people, especially tribal people, living on the outskirts of forests where boundaries are not electrically fenced. Even as wildlife experts point out the loss of the natural corridor of wild elephants and lack of enough feed and water in the core areas of forests as the reasons for the animals wandering into human-inhabited areas, tribal people believe that the wild elephants have increasingly turned violent and enter human-inhabited areas more often.

“Whenever wild beasts enter our areas, it is quite natural that there will be huge destruction of crops and maximum damage to the cultivated area,” said Karuthakochu, a tribal man near Kannampady in Idukki Wildlife Sanctuary, whose tapioca and plantain cultivations were destroyed by an elephant nearly a month ago. The elephant stayed in the area for a day and destroyed cultivation in vast areas of land.

Karuthakochu said interference of outsiders in the wildlife sanctuaries had resulted in the beasts turning furious and moving into areas outside the forest. “A proper electric fencing is the only solution. However, for the past few years, the Forest Department has failed in providing electric fencing in the areas. This has resulted in wild beasts entering freely into the human-inhabited areas,” he said.

The death of Palaniswami at Marayurkudy on Wednesday after being attacked by a wild elephant was not an isolated incident. He was the fifth person, including women, from the kudy who fell victim to the animal-man conflict.

Electric fencing

“When tribal people are rehabilitated in areas near forests, proper electric fencing is to be ensured. Without that, the free movement of people in the area is not possible,” said K.S. Unnikrishnan, a social activist and a wildlife expert.

According to a senior Forest Department official, electric fencing in large areas bordering the forest is difficult, mainly due to the huge expenses involved.

Moreover, the wild elephants leave the core areas of the forests only during the monsoons. He said that in many areas annual repair work of the existing electric fences was pending.

The increased human interference in forest has contributed much to it. He said that forests were being used for making arrack. The elephants consuming the koda left in the area turn violent and move towards human-inhabited areas.

Trampled to death

A youth was trampled to death by a wild elephant at the rehabilitation area of tribal people near Chinnakkanal in Munnar on Wednesday. The deceased has been identified as Palaniswami, 30, of 301 Colony, Marayurkudi.

Police said that Palaniswami along with two others was on his way to the agricultural land near the forest when the wild elephant suddenly turned up and attacked him about 7.30 a.m.

Another person Ayyappan, 35, was also injured. Tension prevailed in the area for sometime, when the tribal people gheraoed the Munnar DySP and senior police officials who reached the spot to inquire into the incident. The tribal people had been demanding electric fencing of the area to prevent wild animals from entering the human-inhabited areas. A police team is camping in the area.