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Spurt in elephant deaths at Periyar reserve

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Giji K. Raman

Official blames it on rogue elephant; eco expert raises doubts

KATTAPPANA: A recent spurt in death of wild elephants, including a calf, in the Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR), Thekkady, has raised concern. It is believed that eight elephants died in a month, though officials have confirmed only five cases. The reason for the deaths is yet to be identified.

The authorities attributed the fatalities to “attack by a rogue elephant which had turned violent.” It was found in the post-mortem reports that four elephants died from wounds caused by fighting. The image of a rogue elephant was captured near the area.

However, an environmental expert says that the chances of a rogue elephant attacking a calf are slim. The carcass of the two-day-old female calf was found at Ottamaram in the Vallakkadavu range on Saturday.

The range alone has reported the death of five elephants. In Srampical range, two female elephants died. An eight-year-old tusker was found dead in the Thekkady range.

“Only a detailed inquiry can confirm the reason. We have tried to give the animals maximum protection. Poaching on the Tamil Nadu border has been effectively countered,” said a wildlife official of the PTR. He added that elephant census had not been taken in the PTR since 2002.

About 90 per cent of the PTR is evergreen with abundant source of perennial streams. Unlike other sanctuaries, there is no concern for man-animal conflict in the 800-sq km zone, he added.

Georgy P. Mathachen, Deputy Director, PTR, told The Hindu on Sunday that of the five elephants, the death of four was confirmed as due to fighting. The fifth one died of an infection from an injury, apparently caused by the sharp end of bamboo.

He said that a team deputed to trace the rogue elephant confirmed that it was in ‘musth’ and was returning to normal condition. An expert team will be formed to enhance protection for the animals, he said.

It is believed that PTR has 600 to 700 elephants with a 1:5 male-female ratio. No outbreak of disease had been noticed in the PTR, said the official.

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